Whale Talk

Whale Talk

by Chris Crutcher


$9.99 View All Available Formats & Editions

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061771316
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/30/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Chris Crutcher has written nine critically acclaimed novels, an autobiography, and two collections of short stories. Drawing on his experience as a family therapist and child protection specialist, Crutcher writes honestly about real issues facing teenagers today: making it through school, competing in sports, handling rejection and failure, and dealing with parents. He has won three lifetime achievement awards for the body of his work: the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the ALAN Award, and the NCTE National Intellectual Freedom Award. Chris Crutcher lives in Spokane, Washington.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In the end, write it down. Back up and find the story. Mr. Simet, my English and Journalism teacher, says the best way to write a story, be it fact or fiction, is to believe aliens will find it someday and make a movie, and you don't want them making Ishtar. The trick is to dig out the people and events that connect, and connect them. No need to worry about who's wearing Nike and who's wearing Reebok, or anybody's hat size or percentage of body fat. Like Jack Webb on the Dragnet series on Nick at Nite says, "Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts."

The facts. I'm black. And Japanese. And white. Politically correct would be African-American, Japanese-American and what? Northern European-American? God, by the time I wrote all that down on a job application the position would be filled. Besides, I've never been to Africa, never been to Japan and don't even know which countries make up Northern Europe. Plus, I know next to nothing about the individuals who contributed all that exotic DNA, so it's hard to carve out a cultural identity in my mind. So: Mixed. Blended. Pureed. Potpourri.


Big deal; so was Superman.

And I like Superman, I was adopted by great people. The woman I call Mom - who is Mom - Abby Jones, was in the hospital following her fourth miscarriage (and final attempt) at the miracle of birth) where she met my biological mother, Glenda, right after my presumed bio-dad, Stephan, had assisted in my natural childbirth only to come eyeball-to-eyeball with the aforementioned UNICEF poster boy. A second-generation German-American married to a woman ofSwiss-Norwegian descent, he was a goner before my toes cleared the wet stuff. Any way he matched up the fruit flies, he couldn't come up with me. Because my mom is one of those magic people with the natural capacity to make folks in shitty circumstances feel less shitty, she consoled Glenda and even brought her home until she could get her feet on the ground. Evidently Glenda was as surprised as Stephan; she'd had a one-night stand with my sperm donor to get even for a good thumping and had no idea the tall black-Japanese poet's squiggly swimmer was the one in a billion to crash through to the promised land.

Things sped rapidly downhill for Glenda as a single mother, and two years later, when she brought Child Protection Services crashing down on herself, getting heavily into crack and crank and heavily out of taking care of me, she remembered Mom's kindness, tracked her downa nd begged her to take me. Mom and Dad didn't blink - almost as if they were expecting me, to hear them tell it - and all of a sudden I was the rainbow-coalition kid of two white, upwardly mobile ex-children of the sixties.

Actually, only Mom was upwardly mobile. She's a lawyer, working for the assistant attorney general's office, mostly on child-abuse cases. Dad likes motorcycles; he's just mobile.

We never did hear from Glenda again, Mom says probably because the separation was too painful and shameful. Sometimes I find myself longing for her, just to see or talk with her, discover more about the unsettledness within me; but most of the time that ache sits in a shaded corner of my mind, a vague reminder of what it is not to be wanted. At the same time all that seems out of place, because I remember nothing about her; not what she looked like or the sound of her voice or even the touch of her hand. I do admit to having a few laughs imagining how history rewrote itself inside Stephan's head when my shiny brown head popped out.

It's interesting being "of color" in a part of the country where Mark Fuhrman has his own radio talk show. My parents have always encouraged me to be loud when I run into racism, but I can't count on racism being loud when it runs into me. Very few people come out and say they don't like you because you aren't white; when you're younger it comes at a birthday party you learn about after the fact, or later, having a girl say yes to a date only to come back after discussing it with her parents, having suddenly remembered she has another engagement that night. Not much to do about that but let it register and don't forget it. I learned in grade school that the color of a person's skin has to do only with where their way-long-ago ancestors originated, so my mind tells me all racists are either ignorant or so down on themselves they need somebody to be better than. Most of the time telling myself that works. Once in a while my gut pulls rank on my mind, and I'm compelled to get ugly.

I called "All News All Talk Radio" a couple of days after the first time I heard the spectacularly racially sensitive ex-L.A. detective giving Spokane and the rest of the Inland Empire the hot poop on big-time crime fighting. The talk show I called had featured the mayors of an eastern Washington and a north Idaho town declaring that the racist label put on this region is undeserved, blown out of proportion due to the presence of the Ryan Nations fort over in Hayden Lake, Idaho, and the existence of several small militias spread out between central Washington and eastern Montana.

The mayors had departed when the talk-jock finally said, "We're talking with T.J. from Cutter, about fifty miles outside our great city."

I said, "So this racist label, it's undeserved?"

'I believe it is," he said. "An entire region can't be held responsible for the ignorant actions of a few. Certainly you can't argue with that."

"You're right," I said. "I can't. But if the racist label is about perceptions, and in this case, undeserved perceptions, why would you guys have the Mark Fuhrman show?"

"Have you tuned into Mark's show?"

"Not purposely," I said, "but I was scanning the stations and landed right on him."

"How long did you listen?"

"Long enough to convince myself it was really him, that you guys weren't just pulling my chain."

"Then you heard a man who knows a lot about crime prevention and an accomplished professional radio man."

I said, "His voice was okay."

The jock said, "What's your point, T.J.?"

"That if you guys are running the most powerful AM station in the region and you're worried about people's perceptions of that region as racist, you might think twice before you give one of the true icons of racism in this country two hours of drive-time radio every week."

"We didn't hire Mark to talk about race relations. We hired him to talk about criminals and the criminal mind, and about the intricacies of police work. He's written books on the subject, you know."

"You didn't hire him because of his famous name?"

"No, sir, we did not."

"So when you decided your listeners needed to learn about Spokane, Washington, police work, you figured you'd get better expertise from a dishonored ex-L.A. cop rather than some retired veteran Spokane cop who might have covered Spokane's streets for twenty-five or thirty years?"

He said, "How old are you?"

"What does that matter?"

"Your voice sounds like a kid."

"You tell me why that matters, and I'll tell you how old I am."

"It matters because if you're too young, you might lack the experience to carry on this conversation intelligently."

"I'm a fifty-six-year-old retired Spokane policeman." I said, and paused a moment. "Guess I don't have the voice for it." I hung up.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Whale Talk 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 87 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whale Talk is a more than a high school sports story. It's a bible for how to be a man in a world that is getting more crazy everyday. If you're reading my review, you probably already know the plot from previous reviews, so I'll say something different. Tj Jones is a class act, and a role model for how to be humble and decent when blessed with extordianry talents. Whale Talk made me laugh, made me think, and made me almost cry. It changed my life, and I garantee it will change yours too, if only in a small way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Surprisingly entertaining. Material is definitely prevalent to today's young adults. Extremely touching. You feel just as strongly for the character Chris and for the main character TJ.
ABookVacation More than 1 year ago
This isn’t a book I would normally pick up to read because sports novels really aren’t my thing, but since I am seriously lacking sports novels on my Outside Reading List for my students, and students keep asking me to add more, I read this novel on the recommendation of the school librarian. Overall, it was a good story. It’s well written and deals with many emotional topics, such as bullying, abuse, hatred, and even death. Crutcher treads lightly, and I liked how he broached each topic throughout his novel, making this a great MG or YA read. Although not really a swim team, T.J. Jones brings together a band of misfits who, through practice, swim meets, and long bus rides, learn to trust one another. Through their personal stories that they share with one another, readers are further able to connect with them on a deeper level, and I enjoyed this aspect of the novel. While I wasn’t necessarily a fan of T.J. and his cocky demeanor, I don’t think he means any harm; he’s just trying to do right by those around him and to dispel the bullying and prejudice others hold against himself, his friends, and even his family. The ending is somewhat depressing, in my opinion, but overall it works to bring everything together and I thought it was a good read. If you have any younger males looking for a good story, especially if they’re into sports, then I highly recommend this novel to them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book because it wasnt chessy like almost every single book i have read and ive read alot of books. It uses atons of cuss words which made the story sound more real. It also is alittle disturbing.
nicko55 More than 1 year ago
At Cutter High School T.J. Jones is trying to put a swim team together. However they don't have a pool at there high school. So T.J. gets permission to use a local pool, for free. He then puts a group together formed from misfits at the local high school, to achieve one goal. That goal is to obtain the varsity letter jacket-unattainable for most; T.J. wants to have one of his own. The swim team uses a Cutter High School bus to travel to swim meets-piloted by Icko. T.J. has a natural athletic ability, however he has always been shunned at Cutter High School because, as he says, "something inside me recoils at being told what to do, and that doesn't sit well with most coaches, who are paid to do exactly that." But when T.J.'s teacher asks him to help start a swim team, T.J. cant help himself because he sees a opportunity to earn a Cutter High School varsity letter jacket. To reach his goal T.J. faces the athletic establishment, who doesn't like the idea of a swim team. Especially, because Cutter doesn't have a pool. As the story goes on T.J. starts to learn that it's not only high school's misfits that can't be judged without getting to know them first. (Like judging a book by its cover.) He learns that he can't judge Cutter High's bullies and victims also. What drew me to this book it that I have read Deadline, which is another book by Crutcher. I enjoyed reading Deadline; I loved the storyline and the style of writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been rereading this since I was in middle school. And still loving it as a college student.
ewyatt on LibraryThing 8 months ago
There were plenty of places where I had to wipe away a tear after reading sections of this book, particularly in the strength and kindness characters' showed each other after facing cruelty at the hands of other characters and life. The story centers around TJ, a gifted athlete who doesn't buy into the school caste system which places varsity athletes at the center of the universe regardless of the content of their characters. TJ puts together a swim team of those who don't quite fit. Although he does it initially as a way to stick it to the jocks, it turns out that this group forms meaningful bonds. TJ's own family is pretty amazing, his adopted parents open their home to an abused girl just as they did for TJ when he was a toddler. TJ's parents, coaches, and counselor, are pretty amazing role models. Over and over again the adults remind TJ that when people behave badly, even evilly, it points to a cycle of abuse. Crutcher's work as a child and family therapist is a clear influence throughout the book. It's a layered narrative that woven together makes a complex, emotional story.
sassafras on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really like Chris Crutcher books. I like that he usually has strong male characters and some sport aspect. The books also have a respect for the reader that sometimes is missing from young adult books. Whale Talk is no exception. It has all the elements. Excellent book. I would recommend it to boys and girls and to anyone who feels like an outsider. And honestly, who doesn't?
presto on LibraryThing 8 months ago
T J, whose full name is The Toa Jones (there¿s a joke there if you pronounce it correctly), relates the story of his eighteenth year, the year he graduates. He has been asked by his English teacher to form a college swimming team, but there is no pool, and it seems T J is the only swimmer.T J gives a frank account of events of that year, not omitting his own short-comings. Raised by adoptive parents, he being the biological son of a European mother and Japanese/black American father, in a predominantly white small town outside Washington, he struggles to keep his temper in check in the face of the many injustices resulting from the racism and bigotry of small-minded jocks.Accepting the challenge of forming a swim team he assembles a curios bunch of misfits and the downtrodden and champions their cause as he strives to attain a coveted varsity Letter-Jacket, normally the preserve of high achievers in the accepted sports, for each member of his team. It is a heart-warming tale as the team unite in their cause despite the fact they seemed doomed to failure from the start. At the same time likeable T J has his own problems to deal with, but here his stable family upbringing helps him to maintain balance despite himself.At times funny, at times moving, with a tense and gripping finale, it makes for an involving story. It does get a little preachy at times, but it is a good cause, showing up racisms and family abuse for what it is; written by someone who clearly has some experience in such matters.
PigOfHappiness on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Although it has some graphic language and scenes, this is an excellent read which I highly recommend. Crutcher presents an interesting and enlightening world view. Appropriate for upper high school and beyond...
kidsilkhaze on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Ok, first things first. All the editions of this book I've seen feature a white guy, running. WHY?! The book is about a swim team, and narrated by a black/Japanese/white guy.I did not love this one nearly as much as I was told I would. I mean, it was good, but I just didn't click with it. Mainly, I wasn't a huge fan of TJ, and the story is entirely in his voice. He's just... too good. His main problem is that he doesn't like jerks in authority positions (which makes him even better to a teen audience!) and his anger issues (but he only gets mad at the bad guys, and only lashes out at people we see are bad people and deserve it, so it's totally ok!) His self-righteousness annoyed me.
sdea on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book tells a story that is more than high school days of sports and teenage cliques. It is jammed pack with characters who each have their own crosses to bear.Sexual, physical, racial and social abuse are some of the challenges that the teens face. There are evil adults and good adults who weave in and out of the story. Great book to read to high schoolers. It is a classic root for the underdog type of theme. Friendship, beating the odds, hero characters, etc. However, it is not always about a happy ending or neat and tidy.The book brings a lot of issues to the table. Even though this is real life stuff, I felt that it was somewhat of an overload for one reading.
kpickett on LibraryThing 8 months ago
TJ likes to go against the grain. So when the school jocks start saying who can and can't wear a letter jacket, TJ decides to join the fledgling swim team to prove them wrong. The team is full of school misfits but with the help of a passionate coach and tons of gumption they manage to make it. While this is going on TJ is also fighting a battle against the town racist who needs to be taught a lesson. The ending to this one is sad so beware, I cried a lot.
WittyreaderLI on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I've heard great things about this author, but frankly, I could not get into his style of writing.
jenniferthomp75 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Good book dealing with racism, outcasts and swimming.T.J (The Tao) Jones is part black, Japanese and white, which makes him stand out in his suburban Washington town. Naturally athletic, the coaches at his high school constantly try to get T.J. to try out for sports, to no avail. That is, until, T.J.'s favorite English teacher convinces him to start a swim team to save his job.T.J. recruits a motley group of fellow students including one without a leg and one who is very overweight. Their stories intertwine and make for an interesting read.My one complaint about the story was how stereotypical the bullies were. I felt they were one-note and not as fully developed as the other characters. However, it doesn't take away from the story as may be expected.Highly recommended to those who like to fight for the underdog.
Ynaffit27 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A very powerful book about racism, stereotyping, and aggression. The book's metaphor about whales was perfect and how we should be helping one another and looking out for our own kind--humans--all humans--despite their backgrounds, color, age, etc.
VictoriaF on LibraryThing 8 months ago
When I first saw the cover of the book I knew right then and there that I wasn¿t going to be very interested in this book. I know that they say never judge a book by its cover, but that saying does not included me in it. Every time that I am handed a book or looking at a book I always judge it; you may say because I had already had a set opinion in mind that I was going to let it affect me through out the book, but I didn¿t. To me the setting and mood of the whole novel wasn¿t very interesting and there wasn¿t a lot of conflict in this story either and I like alot of conflict in my stories to be really interested in it. Yes, their may have been problem within the story, but to me some of those problems could have been solved a long time ago. Overall the novel wasn¿t all so bad so don¿t let my opinion effect your decision on reading this novel; remember everyone has a different opinion in every type of situation.
middlemedia2 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Overall this is a good book. It starts off fairly slow but eventually picks up. I loved the character TJ and how he did his best to help everyone. His parents sound like great parents too. Not a big fan of the ending but understand why it ended the way it did.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing 8 months ago
TJ, an adopted multiracial teen, is athletic and smart. He avoids organized sports until he decides to form a swimming team made up of the school misfits.
annekiwi on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I don't know what it is about Crutcher's writing that draws me in so. A lot of the stories are very similar, the adults tend to have no sense of humor, they are also very one dimensional in that they are either good or stupid, very little gray area. The heroes tend to be great at everything, even recovering from traumatic head injuries, knifings, or traumatic childhoods. And I know that I disagree with a lot of his politics. I wince reading some stuff and think of it as propaganda for his political point of view directed toward impressionable youth, which enrages me somewhat. And yet. And yet, I keep reading his stuff. I like his characters. I like the way he writes. He tells a good story. And this one was no exception. TJ is a mixed race kid adopted by a biker dad and lawyer mom, atheletic to the nth degree but won't participate in school sports, which drives his sports-centric school authorities to insanity. His favorite teacher, in an effort to avoid having to coach another team, starts a swim team. TJ gathers together the school's disenfranchised, the ones who aren't allowed to wear the coveted letter jacket, and creates an amazing team. They don't win, but they try and they keep trying and that is really their success. There are also topics of prejudice and racial stuff, but that took a back seat for me to the team. I loved how these disseparate boys came together as loners and made themselves into a team. And I loved the sportmanship of the other schools portrayed in this book. Although the "Cutter All Night Wolverines" are the slowest swimmers, the other schools' atheletes finish long before them, however they don't get out of the water until the slowest guy finishes. I wish high school boys could really behave this way.
theepicrat on LibraryThing 8 months ago
whale talk was an awesomely funny book, and yet it contained some serious thought-provoking issues that made me sick to my stomach to think that there are still people out there that judge by skin color, mental abilities, gender, age, etc. and use it as fuel to harass others. I loved T.J.'s personality - he was just so full of life that I couldn't help but smile most of the time. Plus his swimmates were also very funny. Sometimes it was hard to keep them straight, but their personalities were so very different but very hilarious. And I have to give total kudos to his parents, especially his father, because they were awesome individuals and totally had his back when T.J. decided to take a stand for what he believed in.The ending - oh, the ending! It totally made me cry! I wish I could say more, but I can't. Just that you should have a tissue handy when you get there, if you're the sort of person who cries during books and movies.whale talk would be perfect if you are feeling down and need a good laugh. But don't expect all laughs - there are some serious issues going on that will get your heart all twisted.
jclarkd on LibraryThing 8 months ago
i've read this book twice now and i'm still not bored of it. The book had me going untill the last page. It revolves around the captain of cutter highschool's swim team, T.J jones. At his highschool the letterman jacket is the ultimate symbol for athletics, and anyone who wears it, therefore it's almost unattainable. When mike bourbor, one of the antagonists of the story, sees chris coughlin wearing his dead brothers letter jacket he starts to bully and threaten him. Thats when T.J. jones plots for a way chris, and others like him, can get a letter of their own. Then his journalism teacher, simet, proposes the idea of cutters first swim team. Along the way they make a team, bond with eachother, and battle racism and football players. I'd recommend this to anyone.
SavannahC on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This a pretty good book. I mean, it¿s not my favorite, but I think the different development in the characters and theme of it is extremely interesting. It¿s about a multiracial senior in high school, TJ, who is extremely athletically capable, but because he doesn¿t like the way his school conducts sports he chooses not to join them. Well, he feels that way until he decides he¿s going to stay a swim team for the school to help the outcasts of the school to wear the blue and gold jackets, that are so prestigious at Cutter high school. It deals with problems such as child abuse, spousal abuse, racism, and the effect of bullying. I definitely recommend this book. I even tried to get my mom to read it, but she was too busy at work; oh well, her loss.
ShauneReed on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book is an interesting story with ever changing moods that keep you going. One minute reading this book you'll be laughing at something that's happened, the next you'll be on the verge of tears. It truly is a touching story and I strongly recommend anyone to experience it.
MichaelLopez on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher was a good all around book. It deals with many big problems in society that most people dont want to talk about, he directly addresses it. This book might not interest every reader though. I believe this is more of guy's book because it has a lot to do with sports and male testosterone. One of the most appealing parts of this story was the part where the main character stands up and trys to help all those that have been bullied and is trying to help them take revenge on the jocks who have terrorized there lives. It is a strong book in the sence that it deals with so many big problems in just one book such as raceism and abuse and those are only a select few. it was a good book.