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A varsity letter jacket: it's exclusive, nearly unattainable, revered . . . and everything that's screwed up about Cutter High, as far as T. J. Jones is concerned. That's why T. J. is determined to have the Cutter All Night Mermen—the unlikeliest swim team a high school has ever seen—earn letter jackets of their own.

It won't be easy. For one thing, they don't even have a pool. They will fight for their dignity, they will fight with each other, and sometimes they will just fight. And then they will realize that a single moment can bring lifelong heartache or lifelong friendship. For T. J. and his crew of misfits, the quest may be far more valuable than the reward.

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061968532
List price: $9.99
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Read this in my undergrad YA lit course. Liked a lot, very moving boy centered story. Good for topics of bullying and standing up to adversity. But... I remember our class having a discussion about the MC's girlfriend how much of a flat 2D character she was and how it bugged us. Reading some of Crutcher's other work I've felt the same reaction at times.more
While I could get behind the main character here, I just found this book a little hard to take. While I do think teen novels should deal with tough issues and not shy away from unpleasantness, this one seemed a bit extreme. The disturbing nature of the work was heightened by the fact that the author, Chris Crutcher, works as a child psychologist and doubtless based much of the book's shocking violence on situations he has actually encountered. What was harder to swallow for me was the sheer concentration of cruelty and depravity. Can one small town harbor such an overwhelming cross-section of violence and irresponsible adults? Why is this one teenager seemingly the only one responsible for trying to right wrongs here? Also, considering the book's subject matter, the packaging of both of the popular editions seems off. The back cover of the Harper Teen edition makes the book sound like something appropriate for middle schoolers--a fun sports story about a goofy swim team of misfits. The novel, of course, is something else entirely. Informed readers is what we're going for here, everyone. This novel does spark some great serious conversation, but be aware that the contents are not what they appear from the outset!more
This book was as funny as it was devastating. I've never read a book by Chris Crutcher and this was so very poignant and articulate in its message that I will be looking for more by Crutcher to read.

At certain parts, I found T.J. a little arrogant for my liking, but he's a popular kid in high school, so I get it. There also were a lot of threads to follow, but it was handled so well by Crutcher that I didn't get too overly confused (some of the names did run together for me though)

My favorite part of this book: a healthy teenage relationship shown as a background to the story. It would have been easy to make it a focus and bring it into the storyline better - but it would have lessened the quality of the book.more
When TJ's teacher askes him to join a newly forming swim team, TJ's pretty sure it's not for him. Although a natural athlete, TJ's avoided organized sports for good reasons. But when he sees one of the high school jocks bullying a special needs student, he devises gets an idea. Crutcher writes realistic fiction, which is not my genre of first choice, but his characters & plots really grab you.more
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Reviews

Read this in my undergrad YA lit course. Liked a lot, very moving boy centered story. Good for topics of bullying and standing up to adversity. But... I remember our class having a discussion about the MC's girlfriend how much of a flat 2D character she was and how it bugged us. Reading some of Crutcher's other work I've felt the same reaction at times.more
While I could get behind the main character here, I just found this book a little hard to take. While I do think teen novels should deal with tough issues and not shy away from unpleasantness, this one seemed a bit extreme. The disturbing nature of the work was heightened by the fact that the author, Chris Crutcher, works as a child psychologist and doubtless based much of the book's shocking violence on situations he has actually encountered. What was harder to swallow for me was the sheer concentration of cruelty and depravity. Can one small town harbor such an overwhelming cross-section of violence and irresponsible adults? Why is this one teenager seemingly the only one responsible for trying to right wrongs here? Also, considering the book's subject matter, the packaging of both of the popular editions seems off. The back cover of the Harper Teen edition makes the book sound like something appropriate for middle schoolers--a fun sports story about a goofy swim team of misfits. The novel, of course, is something else entirely. Informed readers is what we're going for here, everyone. This novel does spark some great serious conversation, but be aware that the contents are not what they appear from the outset!more
This book was as funny as it was devastating. I've never read a book by Chris Crutcher and this was so very poignant and articulate in its message that I will be looking for more by Crutcher to read.

At certain parts, I found T.J. a little arrogant for my liking, but he's a popular kid in high school, so I get it. There also were a lot of threads to follow, but it was handled so well by Crutcher that I didn't get too overly confused (some of the names did run together for me though)

My favorite part of this book: a healthy teenage relationship shown as a background to the story. It would have been easy to make it a focus and bring it into the storyline better - but it would have lessened the quality of the book.more
When TJ's teacher askes him to join a newly forming swim team, TJ's pretty sure it's not for him. Although a natural athlete, TJ's avoided organized sports for good reasons. But when he sees one of the high school jocks bullying a special needs student, he devises gets an idea. Crutcher writes realistic fiction, which is not my genre of first choice, but his characters & plots really grab you.more
I'll admit, the only reasons I wanted to read this is because some parents want to ban this from a high school class. After reading this book and seeing some of their comments I can guarantee that not one of them read this book.

Some of their gripes have to do with the profanity used. I'll admit, some of the profanity could have been held back. But most were essential to the telling of the story and more importantly to the telling of the characters.

I think I read this through different eyes because of all of this. I tried to read this as an educator in order to see if I felt if there was any educational value to this. This book touched upon so many important and relevant topics. Bullying, racial tension, and mental and physical abuse to name some of the big ones. This is absolutely a book I would have any high school student read.Pmore
I read this for Book Club. My rating is actually 3.5, but the stars don't let me do that half star thing. I started this book not liking it for about the first third of the book. The reason is that the protagonist is sooooo angry and really wants revenge against all kinds of people and society in general. I'm not real comfortable with anger and violent thoughts. However, I stuck with it because I knew I had to read the whole thing in order to be able to discuss it. Let's face it, if your name is The Tao you have every write to be angry for that alone. I'm really glad I did read the whole thing, because it's one of the books I think you can talk about for a long time.

After the first third I started to empathize with The Tao and it helped that he was using his anger not in a violent way but in a somewhat productive get-back-at-the-establishment-by-outsmarting-them way. I really loved the themes regarding bullying, people who are different, the outsized relationship of sports in our society, and particularly high school. I liked that the protagonist found a way to stand up for himself and for the other "different" people at his high school. The intelligent twists The Tao uses to get back at the powers that be in high school were brilliantly manipulative.

The father was wonderfully written and I'm so glad he wasn't perfect, though in many ways he was the best Dad possible. Also the English Teacher, Mr. Simet, who sponsored the swim team was a great example of the ways faculty find to help while still staying out of trouble with the administration.

The reason my rating isn't higher than 3.5 is that there were too many times I had to suspend disbelief during the story. I know why the author inserted these incidents or situations, but I thought they could have been better or made a little more realistic. In spite of that, I still recommend the book to anyone who has been bullied or is raising sons who don't fit the high school jock mold and feel left out.more
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