TJ Jones' birth name is "The Tao," so it's no real surprise that he has serious anger management problems. Criminally neglected by a drug-addicted mom for two years, he finally found a home with his foster mother and father. But he lives in a place where being mixed-race (African-American, Japanese, and white) might pit you against the town's brutal jocks--who have a stranglehold on the school, the teachers, and the town itself.
To make things worse for him, natural-born athlete TJ has always refused to take part in any of school sports teams until his favorite teacher begs him to start a swim team. TJ agrees, only because he hatches a fun yet diabolical plan to get back at the jocks and the entire school.
Fueled by his dark humor and barely bottled-up rage, TJ is a winning and completely believable character, even if some of the situations might test anyone's ability to suspend disbelief.
Overall, this is a fast-paced read that's fueled by anger and pathos.
Bibliotherapeutic value: Crutcher takes a real look at racism and child abuse and how the affects can be crippling. TJ and another child he helps in therapy either direct their anger outward or twist it in, turning it into self-disgust.
Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk. Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, 2009.
ISBN: 0061771317. $8.99.