Steph Recommends: Don Calame’s Swim the Fly

swimthefly

“Oh, by the way,” Coop announces as he weaves his DeathBot ship through a barrage of space debris on his laptop screen. “In case you didn’t know. It’s national ‘That’s What She Said’ Day.”
I give him a thumbs-up. “I like it.”
We’re camping out in Sean’s backyard tonight. It’s another one of our traditions. One night, every summer, we buy a ton of junk food and energy drinks and set up Sean’s six-person tent in the far corner of his yard.
We’ve got an extension cord running from the garage so that we can rough it in style, with computers and a TV and DVD player. There’s a citronella candle burning in the middle of the tent to ward off mosquitoes and to mask the thick stink of mildew. Everyone’s brought sleeping bags and pillows, but we aren’t planning on logging too many Zs.
Sean enters the tent carrying his Xbox. “I don’t think there are enough sockets for all of these.”
I waggle my eyebrows at Coop. “That’s what she said.”
Coop busts up.
Sean stands there, looking confused. “I don’t get it.”
“That’s what she says,” Coop says, sending him and me into hysterics.
Sean sighs and puts the Xbox down. “I can see this is going to be a long night.”
“That’s what she said,” me and Coop howl in chorus.
“Are you guys done yet?”
Coop is practically in tears. “That’s what she said.”
“Okay. I’ll just keep my mouth shut,” Sean grumbles.
“That’s what she said.” I can barely talk I’m laughing so hard.
“Enough. No more. My cheeks hurt,” Coop says, rubbing his face.
I point at him. “That’s what she said.”
And with that, the three of us fall over in fits.
“Oh, man, now look what you made me do.”
Coop motions to his computer. “That was my last DeathBot ship.”
“That’s what she said,” Sean blurts out, laughing at his nonsensical joke.
Coop and I stare at him, and then simultaneously, we hit Sean in the face with our pillows.

This book is a hilarious and charming tale that gets right into the head of a thirteen year-old boy as he and his three friends take on their most difficult summer challenge yet: seeing a girl totally and utterly naked.

And sisters don’t count.

Ok, stop worrying. This book may be crude at times (keep your sense of humour!) but it is in no way degrading to women, I promise, but I’ll get to that later.

Don Calame’s hilarious hormone induced romp follows fifteen year-olds Matt (our POV), Coop and Sean through the summer holiday as they take part in their town’s swim team and, of course, try and accomplish their goal. Matt, who lives with his single mom and grandfather, tries to impress the new girl in town, Kelly, by volunteering to swim the 100 meter butterfly (hence the title: Swim the Fly) and the whole book really revolves around this goal as well as the seeing-a-girl-naked-goal (which eventually takes second place on the priority list). Of course, swimming the 100 meter fly wouldn’t have been such a terrible goal if Matt weren’t a scrawny nerd more capable of a slow freestyle relay. Oh, and if he didn’t have to compete against Kelly’s ex-boyfriend Tony “The Gorilla” Grillo. Meeting a couple of interesting characters along the way this story follows Matt as he grows up just a little… oh, and sees a naked girl 😉

There are two things that absolutely loved about this book and that I think take it that one notch higher than other teen humour. For one the characters were all wonderfully believable. Not once did I feel like there was an inauthentic moment in Matt’s narrative. Matt is very endearing but he is also authentically boy. There’s just no other way to put it – perhaps I’m not the right authority to say what is authentically boy or what is authentically girl but suffice it to say, I think that Don Calame nails it. Here are a couple of Matt’s character moments:

“The first thing I do is scan the room for cute girls. You’d think that being in a room with a dead body might push those feelings down deep inside you. But no. It’s like trying to force a kickboard to stay underwater; unless you give it your full, constant attention, it eventually explodes to the surface.”

OR

“I pick a few shirts off my bedroom floor and give them the sniff test. The only one that seems relatively clean is my bright yellow BIG BONE LICK STATE PARK, KENTUCKY T-shirt that Cooper got me for my birthday last year. He thought it was the funniest thing ever.”

Matt’s two best friends Coop and Sean are also hilarious, getting Matt into as much trouble as they save him from – although, don’t be fooled, Matt causes his share of trouble too.

The second thing that I think worked well were the females and the goal of seeing a naked one (come on, what fifteen year-old boy doesn’t have this (or some similar) goal?). What is especially important in a story of this nature is the strength and diversity of the female characters. Like the boys, there are a variety of different girl characters, including Matt’s tough and gruff swim instructor and his single Mom who is a great and strong character as well, that offer their own funny, charming and honest moments. While the boys do get to spot a naked girl…. it isn’t exactly as they imagined though incredibly funny and satisfying for us readers (and works really well with the hijynx raunch (but not over-the-top crude) nature of the book). And, by this point, Matt (at least) is starting to figure out that there may be more to girls than simply sneaking a peep at them.

In short this is a great book and I recommend to anyone and everyone. My only caution is that you keep a light hearth while reading because the language can be a little crude and there are numerous (hilarious and immature) references to many body parts, masturbation (spanky hanky?), mentions of sex and well, they do see a naked female. Many other reviews suggest that this might be a good choice for that reluctant male reader – I’m not sure about this, as a kid I didn’t like realistic fiction that was purposefully aimed at me – BUT if they need a mirror to see themselves in then perhaps, and if they like fast-paced realistic stories then perhaps. Give it a shot. I think that adults and kids alike will like this light-hearted, charming read – it had me laughing out loud, so you may too, what’s not worth a good chuckle?