Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Learning to Swim

Learning to Swim

4.3 11
by Cheryl Klam

See All Formats & Editions

Seventeen-year-old Steffie Rogers is not happy. Her mother, Barbie, has been suffering from love lunacy since before Steffie was even
born. What is love lunacy? It's what happens to her mom when she has affairs with married men. The first stage is the Secret Smile and the last stage occurs when the relationship falls apart: Barbie picks another town in Maryland and


Seventeen-year-old Steffie Rogers is not happy. Her mother, Barbie, has been suffering from love lunacy since before Steffie was even
born. What is love lunacy? It's what happens to her mom when she has affairs with married men. The first stage is the Secret Smile and the last stage occurs when the relationship falls apart: Barbie picks another town in Maryland and they move, which they've done 14 times.

Now Steffie lives on Jones Island and is working as a maid at a country club over the summer (long story). She's in love with handsome lifeguard Keith McKnight, but he already has a girlfriend. When Keith offers to teach Steffie how to swim, she finds herself in his arms and fighting the symptoms of love lunacy. But with the help of her feisty, older friend Alice, she's determined not to drown in her mother's problems.

Still, Steffie is about to discover that swimming against the current isn't so easy.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Stephanie Squicciarini
Steffie Rogers, 17, has, thanks to her mother's "love lunacy," moved 14 times in as many years. Love lunacy happens when her mother, Barbie, falls for a married man and then proceeds through eight stages, beginning with the Secret Smile and eventually reaching the Finger Move—moving to whatever place Barbie's finger lands on when poking blindly at a map. Since Steffie never has the chance to make friends her own age, her best friend is Alice, the 60-year-old woman she works with at the country club. It is at this club where Steffie experiences her own potential love lunacy, falling for Keith, the club's lifeguard. Keith, who has a girlfriend, offers to give Steffie swimming lessons after she nearly drowns. This brings them closer and ultimately serves as a symbol for Steffie's growth and self-awareness. While the story is one that will pull readers along, there are moments when some of it seems uneven. Steffie has a believable voice and readers will feel close to her. Alice is compassionate and caring, the strong mother figure that Steffie craves. But Barbie is almost a caricature and her transition may leave readers not entirely convinced at the end, while Keith offers advice that does not sound entirely like that from a teen boy. Even with these flaws, however, Learning to Swim is a novel that should land well with readers seeking stories with just enough weight to leave them feeling satisfied, but without so much that it leaves them overwhelmed.
Children's Literature - Naomi Butler
Seventeen-year-old Steffie and her single mom, Barbie, have moved yet again because Barbie's married boyfriend left her. When Steffie starts falling for the life guard at the country club where she has a summer job, she worries that she is becoming somewhat like here mother. This is a seemingly real-life teen story that may parallel some experiences that happen in families which make it very difficult for teens to get through those years. The back cover details Steffie's "Reasons Why My Life is a Freaking Mess: A List," which includes situations that may be the same or somewhat like those some teens face. It includes: the mother's behavior, a summer job that can stink, an obsession with a boy from another "class," wondering how he feels about her, the boyfriend's real girlfriend, possibly leaving a best friend, moving again, and love lunacy. It is all quite believable, but this story turns out as well as it can in the end. Because the book is an attractive paperback with a nice format, it probably will be picked up immediately by teens. It has good flow-through reading.
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up
It's summer and Steffie is working at a country club on wealthy Jones Island, MD, where her only friend is 60-something fellow-maid Alice. When the 17-year-old nearly drowns, she is saved by hunky lifeguard Keith, who offers her swimming lessons. At this point, it becomes evident how predictable this title will be: Keith slowly falls in love with Steffie and breaks up with his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Steffie's mom, Barbie, suffers from what her daughter terms "love lunacy." She continually falls for married men, gets ditched, and then they have to move to avoid the man and his family. This has happened 14 times already. The teen fears that she is repeating her mother's mistakes and worries that, regardless of how things pan out with her relationship, she and her mom will be moving soon anyway. While Klam's debut chick-lit novel falls prey to some sloppy writing in the first half, and a somewhat silly premise-Barbie forbids Steffie from learning how to swim because her own parents drowned-the antics between the two maids are endearing. Nevertheless, some of the references-especially to clothing brands-seem off the mark from what contemporary teens are after, and may date the book. Authors like Sarah Dessen manage similar topics with tighter writing and more feeling, making this an additional purchase for most libraries.
—Jennifer BarnesCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Teenager Steffi Rogers can't swim. So when Steffi's crush, Keith McKnight, offers her swimming lessons, she accepts, even though she knows that Keith has a girlfriend and that her mother, Barbie, who is terrified of the water, will forbid the lessons. Fortunately for Steffi, her lessons coincide with Barbie falling back into "love lunacy," which consumes her attention. Love lunacy is Steffi's term for the eight distinct stages of Barbie's relationships with married men, which always end in disaster and an address change for the two women. Going behind Barbie's back isn't Steffi's style, but she figures Keith is worth it, until she notices symptoms of love lunacy in herself. Despite punchy dialogue, Steffi's character falls flat, except for the interactions with her best friend Alice, a senior citizen with spunk. Readers hungry for a more satisfying mother/daughter text should check out Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler's Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (2006). Superficial and predictable. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Some mothers are alcoholics, some are druggies, and some are compulsive shoppers, gamblers, and/or liars. Mine suffers from one of those types of emotional, addictive diseases as well (although definitely not as serious). It's a relatively undocumented condition that I, Steffie Rogers, refer to as "love lunacy."

In a nutshell: the victim of love lunacy goes from one bad affair to the next, hoping to find happiness, but usually finding the exact opposite. I've watched Barbie (Mom and I are so close--read: dysfunctional--that she insists I call her by her first name) suffer through so many heartbreaks, I could write a book on the subject. In order to help others (and myself) understand this annoying syndrome, I've mapped out the stages of the disease.

1) Secret smile. A weird lopsided, plastic-looking grin becomes plastered on Barbie's face, like she just found a stash of blue M&M's.

2) Forbidden phone call. A call that is so private Barbie must take it outside, away from me. Phone call is followed by a joyous mood.

3) Barbie bliss. May last as little as a couple weeks or as long as several months. Demonstrated by secretive movements, the humming of sappy love songs, and an almost manic burst of energy. During this period, Barbie will hint at positive things to come: "Maybe we should buy a place here and settle down," or "How would you feel if I remarried?"

4) Hot-potato phone. Barbie suddenly becomes neurotic about her cell phone, constantly checking for messages and jumping every time it rings. This sudden obsession indicates that all is not right in Neverland.

5) Schizoid mom. Relationship is clearly on the rocks. Barbie's moods swing from ecstatic to dismal, good to bad, white to black.

6) The map. Fed up or simply dumped, Barbie pulls out her map of Maryland, closes her eyes, and drops her finger.

7) The finger move. Wherever the finger lands--we move.

8) Remission. Barbie promises to never even look at another (ahem--married!) man again.

Numbers six, seven, and eight have happened to Barbie fourteen times. As a result, I've lived in fourteen towns, and I've only been alive for seventeen years. I do the math in my head on a regular basis. The end product is always the same, and it can be easily described with the following made-up adjective: sucktastic.

In all fairness, though, Barbie's not a total lunatic. Unlike most alcoholics and druggies and compulsive whatevers, she has a handle on the basics. She puts a roof over our heads, earns a decent living, and contributes to the betterment of our household, and with a genuinely, if not freakishly, upbeat attitude, I might add. Consistent exposure to her sunshiny disposition can really affect a regular person's state of mind. Case in point: When school ended in mid June, Barbie used her love-lunacy-influenced, mind-powered tractor beam (when used on men, it's boob-powered) and convinced me to work at her office over the summer so I could learn "fiscal responsibility" and save up for tuition at the crummy community college I assume I'll be attending.

Only, Barbie's office isn't an office. It's the bar at the Tippecanoe Country Club, where she's a cocktail waitress who stuffs tips in her bra. And what do I do at this giant, fancy rich-people hangout on Jones Island?

I'm a maid. A polyester-uniform-wearing, plunger-toting maid.

Okay, considering that Barbie thought this idea would also lead to some wacky brand of mother-daughter "fun," it's pretty obvious that she is a total lunatic. And to be honest, even though I love her, I don't want to be anything like her when I grow up. Especially when it comes to that hairy-chested testosterone-producing species that scientists and laypeople like to call "men."

Right now, there's just one thing that stands in the way of my life's mission, which is to avoid love lunacy at all costs.

His name is Keith McKnight.

In fact, I can feel a secret smile forming on my face already. . . .


The day started off like every other Monday. I was hunched over a vacuum cleaner, tidying up the carpet of the ornately decorated club room at Tippecanoe (which was designed many years ago by the same people who built the glamorous Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York). The manager, Mr. Warzog, handed me a plunger and informed me the toilet in the boys' bathroom at the pool had overflowed. How typically sucktastic.

I would have to walk around the pool in my maid outfit, right past potential love lunacy candidate Keith, and every girl in my school. Yes, every girl in my school. Mora Cooper and her popular cheerleader crowd. Amy Fitz and her jocky soccer group. Even Rafaela Berkenstein and her punky friends with the dyed black hair who went around quoting obscure poets and talking about the meaning of life. They were all there, soaking up rays in their bikinis while I was walking around in my baby blue maid outfit and cleaning up stinky bathroom messes. This was not something I wanted to write about in my Good Times journal (which hadn't seen fresh ink since the fourth grade).

It was a hot, sticky afternoon in late July and the pool was jammed. I held on tight to my plunger as I maneuvered through the crowd. As I rounded the deep end, steering around the long line for the high dive, I saw Keith. Clad only in his red swim trunks and wearing his trademark Ray-Bans, he looked like a head lifeguard should: tan, tall, and totally wow. Keith had already graduated by the time I started at Brucker's High, but Jones Island was so tiny, everyone knew each other's business. And being a maid who was practically invisible to all of Tippecanoe's young and fabulous patrons, I was able to eavesdrop and get some good tidbits on Keith.

1) His mom died when he was ten years old. (How could I not love someone with a dead mother? That would be unconscionable.)

2) When he went to my school, he was captain of the football team and a leader of a Boy Scouts group. (Word on the street was he had twenty-five merit badges!)

3) He was also homecoming king and thereby forced into dating the captain of the cheerleading squad, as per the International High School Social Code of Conduct. (But I never held that against him. All he was doing was obeying the law.)

4) He had sex with said cheerleader girlfriend. (This I kind of held against him. He should have been saving himself for me.)

5) He broke up with her during his freshman year at college after he started studying philosophy and registered with the green party. (This proved beyond a doubt that God exists.)

6) Last summer he hooked up with Mora Cooper, his current girlfriend. She was the most popular girl in my class and the new captain of the cheerleading squad. It was rumored they also had sex. (Subsequently, I bought a book on atheism and read it cover to cover.)

Naturally, like every other girl at the club, I couldn't take my eyes off his shaggy auburn hair, his long lanky limbs and toned muscles, his full lips, the dimple in his chin, his deep brown eyes . . .

Suddenly, some little boy barreled into me and splash! I was submerged in a hundred gallons of chlorinated water. Most people started laughing at first. They must have assumed I could swim (um . . . wrong!) and thought it was funny to see a maid get tossed into the pool. But eventually they would realize that this was more of a 911 situation than an amateur attempt at slapstick comedy. Or at least, one person would.

As soon as I stopped splashing, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. I kept my eyes open and just stared up out of the water at all those blurry faces. My plunger filled with liquid and it became an anchor, dragging me down to the bottom. Instead of letting go, I held on for dear life. I had this weird thought that I should just stay down there in the deep end until the pool closed and everyone left. Hey, it was a traumatic experience, and therefore I was entitled to a little irrational thinking.

Before I knew it, Keith had jumped in and yanked the plunger out of my hand. He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me up to the surface. All the other lifeguards helped hoist me out, and then Keith began pushing down on my stomach with his hands.

For one brief moment, I thought, Oh my God! Keith McKnight is feeling me up! And then I got sick.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Cheryl Klam lives in Maryland with her family. Learning to Swim is her first novel.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Learning to Swim 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always end up rereading this book. I love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing..... you should get this! One of the best book ever!! I love all her books!! I hope i can meet her- shes my fav author!!!! Definitly worth the money (:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kimberly Reyes More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed readin dis book, sum parts kept me hooked, overall very cute
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My thirteen year old daughter loves this author. We are hoping she writes more teen books. My daughter read her books within just a few days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Steffie Rogers' life is a mess. Her lovestruck mother moves her every time a relationship goes bad, and she has a less-than-amazing summer job as a maid at a Country Club.

There is one bright spot though: a hot lifeguard named Keith McKnight, who Steffie is obsessed with. However, Keith's got a snooty, fake girlfriend who he's practically in love with, and he doesn't even know that Steffie exists. Things cannot get any worse for her.

However, it all changes one day when a near fatal accident brings Keith and Steffie together. She suddenly finds herself spending more and more time with him, and developing the love-loony symptoms of her crazy mother. Will love lunacy get the best of her? Or can she conquer the madness before it takes over?

LEARNING TO SWIM is a very cute book with outrageous characters and funny dialogue. Readers will definitely identify with Steffie's parental problems, and her unrequited love. LEARNING TO SWIM is a great beach book; exciting, and very entertaining to read. It will be a hit among readers who are looking for a little adventure in their lives this summer, and want to read a sweet, different story with a little spunk... and swimming.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Me and my sister read it and we both fell in love with it!! it's full of teenage drama, georgy guys, and bratty girls.