this has BOTH a sports and a war theme. I loved it, if that means anything.
One of the best teen novels I've ever read. T.J., an engaging, articulate teenager with an uncanny sense of self, is a fish out of water: a biracial adoptee in the monocultural Pacific Northwest, a natural athlete who refuses to participate in his school's pervasive jock culture. When a disabled classmate is bullied for wearing his dead brother's letter jacket, T.J. hatches a brilliant plan: create a swim team composed of school misfits who can earn athletic letters of their own. The Mermen: one overweight, one nerd, one developmentally disabled, one with a prosthetic leg; eventually win respect and admiration across the state, and their friendship brings out unexpected depths of character and talent in them all.
Residents of small town Idaho and Washington, and former school athletes may squirm at the novel's depiction of casual racism and misogyny in those cultures, and I admit that the characters are either completely likable or satanically evil. Yet this is a wonderful story of how one courageous, determined teen can make a huge difference in the lives of people around him.
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