In the war between the sexes on the young adult bookshelves, Swim the Fly occupies the low ground of offensive, knuckleheaded fun. Which is to say, boys will probably love it. This one did.
The New York Times
Screenwriter Calame debuts as a novelist by perfectly channeling the adolescent male mindset. Matt, Cooper and Sean, swim teammates since third grade, hold the local record for the "largest collection of green fifth-place ribbons." In addition to hanging out poolside, each summer they choose a project. This year, Coop, 15, announces their objective will be to see a girl naked. Since none even has a girlfriend, deviant hijinks ensue, including some (dressing in drag to sneak into the girls' bathroom) that strain credibility. Meanwhile, narrator Matt sets an even more unattainable goal-volunteering to swim the grueling 100-yard butterfly to impress the team's star backstroker, "smokin' hot" Kelly West. (Coop points out the flaw in Matt's plan: "I'm sure Kelly finds the sight of a scrawny, pasty white dude flopping around in the water like a spastic salmon very hot.") The boys' pursuits make for a hilarious, if raunchy, what-I-did-last-summer narrative, supported by a cast of memorable adults, including a take-no-prisoners swim coach and Matt's grandfather, who is on a parallel romantic journey. This one will spread like athlete's foot in a locker room. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Cynthia Levinson
The title refers to the challenge for which the main character, Matt, volunteers in order to impress a girlto swim the butterfly in the upcoming summer championship race. The problem is that he does not know how to swim the fly; he is skinny, and the race takes place in only five weeks. Meanwhile, his two best friends have set this summer's annual challenge for the three of themto see a live, naked girl. Replete with references to and euphemisms for farting, vomiting, erections, body parts, and fantasies, this humorous but frank book will appeal to many young adult males. The author does not limit his story to mere titillation, however. Sub-plots also deal with divorce, true friendship, truth telling, and the determination required to succeed. By the end, Matt not only reaches his goals (including seeing a nude female in the form of his middle-aged swim coach) but also defeats a bully, empathizes with his overbearing older brother, and realizes that the girl of his dreams is not the girl he originally lusted for but, rather, her serious-minded friend. Matt even helps his grandfather romance his newly widowed neighbor. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
VOYA - Ria Newhouse
Matt Gratton is a determined youth. Along with his two best friends, Sean and Coop, he sets a summertime goal for the three of them. Each passing summer, the goals become increasingly more difficult. This year's goal is to see a real-live naked girlin the flesh. Matt combines this goal with several others, most important, that of swimming the 100-yard butterfly in order to impress Kelly West, the new girl on the swim team who has just sprung "from her cocoon, looking like a supermodel." The trials and mishaps that the three boys endure and the final (naked) insight are at times hilarious. Matt, Sean, and Coop receive their comeuppance in the end when they accomplish their summertime goal and see the one person they would never want to see naked. Matt also "swims the fly," with some unexpected results and finds that sometimes, summertime goals change. Many moments in this title involve masturbation humor, poop jokes, and situations that will make the adult reader cringe in teen-boy-agony, but overall the sometimes-exaggerated scenes will play well with that targeted audience, a somewhat more difficult audience to reach. Matt is a likeable teen with a funny family (and an especially endearing grandfather), and his journey towards romance (and the finish line) is realistic. Booktalk this one and hand sell it to teens who are looking for a light and humorous summer read. Reviewer: Ria Newhouse
School Library Journal
Matt Gratton, 15, and his friends Sean and Coop challenge themselves with a summer goal to view a naked girl. Although a difficult aim for three nerdy guys, it is nothing compared to Matt's trying to impress Kelly, the girl of his dreams, by volunteering for the nearly impossible 100-yard butterfly at a local swim-team competition. To satisfy their goal, the boys dress up as females and try to sneak into the girls' locker room at the community center. The plan is foiled when Matt has a sudden, outlandish bowel movement. Another time, he sneaks into a country-club pool to practice and meets Ulf, a swim instructor who forces Matt to take his torturous class. Additional incidents stretch belief; others edge on disturbing. Sean and Coop try to peep at Kelly and her friend Valerie in a dressing room, and Coop slices the swim suit of the disliked major contender in the butterfly competition so it tears off in public and Matt ultimately wins. Vomiting and other raunchy episodes and comments throughout have mixed results. Nevertheless, the book holds interest, largely due to Matt's fumbling attempts, at last, at standing up for what's right, the well-portrayed twist that Valerie is the perfect match for him, and his grandfather's quirkiness. Teens looking for realistic guy humor will find amusement here, but a better choice is Steven Goldman's Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film About The Grapes of Wrath (Bloomsbury, 2008).-Diane P. Tuccillo, Fort Collins Regional Library District, CO
This viscerally funny story of one boy's attempt to impress his ladylove by finishing four laps of the dreaded butterfly stroke in a swim competition by summer's end is sure to please fans of Pete Hautman's Rash (2006) and Randy Powell's Three Clams and an Oyster (2002). Fifteen-year-old Matt has two summer goals: attract his crush Kelly's attention by learning to "swim the fly" and see a real girl naked. Matt and pals Cooper and Sean cook up several plots to catch a betty in the buff, but all attempts fail, usually due to an errant bodily emission (Matt's explosive BM in the girl's bathroom is one of the novel's most foully comic moments). Meanwhile, it becomes clear that Kelly's best friend Valerie is more likely to return Matt's affections. Can Matt swim the fly and get the girl in spite of his spaghetti arms and rebellious colon? Fully realized secondary characters, realistically raunchy dialogue and the scatological subject matter assure that this boisterous and unexpectedly sweet read will be a word-of-mouth hit. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Read an Excerpt
"Movies don’t count," Cooper says. "The Internet -doesn’t count. Magazines don’t count. A real, live naked girl. That’s the deal. That’s our goal for this summer."
"Been there, done that," Sean says.
"Taking baths with your sister -doesn’t count, either, Sean." Cooper snorts.
"Screw you, meat stain. I haven’t done that since I was, like, two, okay. And that’s not what I was talking about," Sean says.
We’re walking up to the pool. Cooper, Sean, and me. Bare feet tucked into untied sneakers, ragged towels draped around our necks. It’s our first day of swim practice, which means that summer’s really started. We’ve been friends since kindergarten. We’ve been on swim team since third grade. The Rockville Swimming Association. Six years as Lower Rockville Razorbacks.
"He’s talking about Tina Everstone’s left boob," I say as we turn onto Maple Drive and walk along the curb.
"Oh, please. Not that again." Cooper rolls his eyes.
"It’s true. I saw the whole thing when she was taking off her sweatshirt during gym. Her T-shirt came up just enough"
"And she wasn’t wearing a bra and her left one popped out and you saw the entire thing, nipple and all, and even if I didn’t think you were lying to us, it still wouldn’t count," Cooper says. "I’m talking totally naked. Not a quick flash, okay?"
"Whatever." Sean shrugs and looks off at the rundown ranch houses like he doesn’t care what we think.
"How are we supposed to see a live naked girl?" I say. "Maybe we better set a more realistic goal for the summer. Like finding Atlantis."
"Matt, Matt, Matt." Cooper puts his arm around me like he’s my wise uncle. "That kind of attitude will get you nowhere in life. Don’t you get it? You have to follow the natural way of things. It’s like that picture in our bio textbook. First there’s the monkey. Then there’s the caveman. Then there’s the human. It’s the same with sex. First there’s Internet porn, then there’s seeing your first real naked girl, and finally it’s the dirty deed. You do want to have sex someday, don’t you, Matt?"
Every summer there is a goal. It’s tradition. I don’t remember when it started or why. But as long as I can remember, we’ve always come up with something we had to accomplish before the start of the new school year. When we were ten, it was riding our bikes fifteen miles away to Perry Lake and skinny-dipping. When we were twelve, it was going to the Fern Creek Golf Course every day until we collected a thousand golf balls. Over the past few years, the goals have become more centered around girls and sex. Two years ago, each of us had to get our hands on a Playboy and show it to the others. Last year the ante was upped to finding an illegal password for a porn site. And now, Cooper’s challenge for this summer. Which I can’t see ever happening.
Maybe if we were even a little bit cool, or had any chance of getting girlfriends. But that’s just not the case. By the time you’re fifteen, you’ve either had a girlfriend — maybe even had sex — or, like Coop, Sean, and me, you haven’t even mustered the courage to ask a girl out. There’s also a third group, I guess. Guys who say they’ve had girlfriends but who nobody really believes. Which just means they’re liars who fit into the second category.
We make it to Rockville Avenue Pool just in time to hear Ms. Luntz, our swim coach, calling the team over for a meeting. Ms. Luntz is a gourd-shaped woman who wears her blue-and-white Speedo stretched to capacity underneath denim short-pants overalls. Her legs are thick and pockmarked, and purple worm veins bubble up beneath the see-through skin on her thighs. She doesn’t make things much better for herself with her Campbell’s Soup Kid haircut and gigantic pink-tinted glasses. You could almost feel sorry for her, if she wasn’t so nasty to everyone.
"Hurry up, people," Ms. Luntz squawks. "Let’s go, let’s go. Before winter comes. We’ve got important business to discuss."
Cooper, Sean, and me make our way around "the toilet" — a shallow, oval kiddie pool that’s always suspiciously body-temperature warm. My mom says it’s warm because there’s less water in there and the sun can heat it up faster, but nobody’s buying that. Last year, Cooper bet Sean ten bucks he wouldn’t bob for a Life Saver over the painted picture of Elmo, which is where most of the little kids hang out, and Sean did it without blinking an eye. It was pretty sick. Sean kept saying how they put chemicals in the pool for a reason, but there’s no way I could have done that. I feel my stomach lurch now just thinking about it.
We walk along the edge of the adult pool toward the deep end where the diving boards are. I breathe in the sharp chlorine smell and watch the swimmers stringing the swim lane dividers, and it’s like "Yeah, I know this" mixed with "Oh, God, not this again."
We hang back at the edge of the crowd that forms around Ms. Luntz. It’s all the same people from last year. A sea of blue and white Lycra. Guys and girls from seven to seventeen. All of them serious about swim team.
It’s different for Coop, Sean, and me. We do swim team because we’ve always done swim team. Between the three of us, I bet that we have the largest collection of green fifth-place ribbons in the entire league. It’s not like we try to lose. It’s just that we happen to be the three least athletic kids on the team. Maybe even in all of Rockville.
"Okay, so, welcome back and all that crap," Ms. Luntz says, tapping her pen on her clipboard. "It’s another summer, which means another chance to make a run for gold. Our first meet is in three weeks. I want us to set the bar high right away. I want us to take first in this year’s relay challenge."
Coop leans over to me and whispers, "Yeah, and I want to take a whipped-cream bath with...