Series: Swim The Fly #1
Published by Candlewick Press
Published on April 14th 2009
Genres: Adolescence, Contemporary, Friendship, Humor, Young Adult
Three adolescent boys with a single goal: see a reallive naked girl. The result? Razor-sharp, rapid-fi re, and raunchy, of course. And beyond hilarious.
Fifteen-year-old Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Coop and Sean, always set themselves a summertime goal. This year's? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time — quite a challenge, given that none of the guys has the nerve to even ask a girl out on a date. But catching a girl in the buff starts to look easy compared to Matt's other summertime aspiration: to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the hardest stroke known to God or man) as a way to impress Kelly West, the sizzling new star of the swim team. In the spirit of Hollywood’s blockbuster comedies, screenwriter-turned-YA-novelist Don Calame unleashes a true ode to the adolescent male: characters who are side-splittingly funny, sometimes crude, yet always full of heart.
Swim the Fly is just what the doctor ordered. After finishing the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series, I decided that I wanted to read something fun and light. Of course, being the bonehead I am, I went and picked up The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda, which was anything but light. It was certainly fun, but in that kind of tear-my-hair-out check-the-closet-for-vampires where’s-my-mommy way. I was adamant then (to myself) that I pick up something more relaxing- something that would cheer me up and put a positive, happy spin on my day. And this book delivered.
Swim the Fly really has two major plotlines going on. I won’t elaborate on this too much, because you can see this for yourselves in the Goodreads blurb, but I’ll give you the short rundown. Three 15 year old guys- Matt, Coop, and Sean, set a goal for themselves every summer. This year, the goal is to see a live naked girl. Yes. That’s right. So you can only imagine the kind of stuff that they go through to try and make this happen. The other thing going on is that the narrator, Matt, has the hots for a new girl on his swim team. When a spot opens up for the butterfly competition, he finds himself volunteering, even though the competition is 4 laps of the grueling stroke, and he can manage 4 strokes. He details the training that he does to try and prepare for the meet.
Matt Gratton is terrific as a lead- the author does a remarkably good job of building Matt up as the everyday teenager- the guy next door. He’s kind, sweet, painfully awkward, and COMPLETELY relatable. As a guy who is the same age and thinks about many of the same things, I found myself saying:
very often. Coop was a great addition to the gang as well- he’s the main source of comic relief in Swim the Fly. He adds some wildness and some fun to the trio, and the way that he rubs off on the other two is very interesting. He has his ups and downs like any other teenager, which is particularly appealing. He screws up a lot, but he’s also a terrific friend, and very supporting when he needs to be. Sean is probably the weakest link out of the 3. He doesn’t really offer much- he laughs at Coop’s jokes, and… that’s pretty much it. He has unwavering loyalty for the other two, which is showcased in the book. Also, the two seem to completely accept him in the group.
Speaking of the group, they are fantastic together. Their adventures together are outrageous, ridiculous, and utterly hilarious. They get incredibly unlucky, and their endeavours are laugh-inducing, endearing, and surprisingly touching at times. They are very loyal to each other for the most part, and they support each other through think and thin. Their friendship is unbelievably sound and strong, even through turbulent times. They are quick to forgive and quick to forget.
Humor is a touchy thing. Each joke is its own, so it’s impossible to write a perfect humor novel. Obviously, this is no different- there was a few jokes here and there that fell flat to me. But on the whole, the author did a very nice job of incorporating humor into the text. The jokes for the most part (a special shout-out to national That’s What She Said Day) were very enjoyable, and made me smile. A couple of them literally made me LOL. And believe me, that’s not easy. The tone of this book matched the humor, and the writing was realistic, appropriate, and very light and fresh. This also helped Matt’s character seem more relatable and likable.
Was this book perfect? No. In fact, if I was to go through all of the criticisms I had and analyze them further, I would probably have ended up giving this book 3 stars or worse. Here are a few of my little gripes. The biggest thing was that the author (as far as I could tell) neglected to give any description of how the characters looked. So I was forced to come up with these appearances completely on my own. Also, what happened at the end at the swim meet was a little unrealistic. It’s really hard to do this without spoiling, but basically, there’s only so much that emotion and determination can do for you. You can’t ignore the effects of physical fatigue. So what happened at the end with Matt was a bit unrealistic in my opinion. Also, the plot was strangely coincidental in places (the luck of the main characters lowered as the book went on, which admittedly led to some pretty hilarious scenes), and predictable in others. For example (and again, I can’t stress the difficulty of writing this without spoilers) what transpired near the end with Valerie was completely predictable, and Matt was an oblivious buffoon for not having seen it coming. (DISCLAIMER: I still love the guy.)
So why did I not give this 3 (or less) stars in the end? Simple. This book achieved its purpose. I wanted a light, funny read, and Swim the Fly gave me exactly what I was looking for. Sure, the plot has its problems. But for me, that doesn’t change the overall feeling that this book gave me. It was hilarious, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining. And that in itself warrants 4 stars.
I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Beat the Band, and seeing how the characters develop as a group and by themselves. I hear Coop is the one narrating in the next one, so that will be very interesting. Although it will be difficult to let go of Matt.
I would recommend this to those looking for a quick, pleasant read. (It also helps if you’re a teenage guy.) This is the perfect book for guys who don’t think they like reading. So parents, if you’re looking for a way to introduce your kid to reading, tell them to give this a shot, because Swim the Fly will have everyone smiling all day long.
Latest posts by Daniel Yoo (see all)
- Daniel’s Digressions #1 : We’re Back! Again! - April 16, 2016
- Review 273 : Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff - April 13, 2016
- Review 267 : Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld - November 12, 2015
- Review 266 : The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan - October 29, 2015
- Review 263 : Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - October 13, 2015