Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 3465
Timely and Hopeful Story
Overall rating
Writing Style
Annie is a high school senior who has a lot of family problems. Her bio mom, Nancy, lost custody some time ago due to extreme neglect and drug use, and Annie has been living with the Howards for a number of years, and she gets along well with their son, Marvin, who is about her age. Annie's sport is basketball, and she's hoping to get some college scholarships, but she is using the off season to swim, a sport at which she does not excel. The one good thing about swimming is that Nancy, her half sister Sheila, and Sheila's son, Frankie, often come to watch her, even though she is not supposed to have contact with them. The Howards know about this, and are generally okay with it, but when her foster father thinks that meeting with her bio family makes her misbehave, he wants her to cut off all contact. Sheila is not any better as a parent than Nancy was, but when Frankie goes missing at one of her meets, Annie blames herself. Nancy's boyfriend, Walter, is the most reliable one in the family, and turns out to be more involved in Frankie's life than Annie imagined. At the same time, the Howard family starts to have problems of their own. Will Annie be able to hold her own life together long enough to graduate and go on to college?

The language in this, as is usual for Crutcher, is "gritty and realistic", which means there are multiple uses of profanity, including the f-bomb. Situations found in young adult fiction are notably absent, but there is a fair amount of descriptions of the abuse Annie and Frankie have suffered.
Good Points
Crutcher has worked as a family counselor and this experience adds a lot to all of his books. He does an excellent job of explaining the challenges that Annie faces in the sort of detail that readers want in their sad books. He also makes it understandable that Annie is not willing to cease all contact with her family, no matter how awful they are to her. The Howards are a solid foster family, but it's good to see them portrayed as somewhat flawed as well. Annie's relationship with Marvin is fun to see, as their sibling bond is typically adversarial at times, but also very sweet.

The inclusion of swimming is fantastic-- aside from this author's Whale Talk, Calame's Swim the Fly, Crossan's The Weight of Water, Dominy's A Matter of Heart and Luurtsema's Goldfish, there aren't that many books about swimming published for young adults. Readers who like to read about people whose lives are worse than their own (and there are a lot of readers who do!) will find that Crutcher's book, while dealing with serious issues, treats them with constructive levels of hope. It's easy to envision a successful life for Annie, even though it might not be an easy one.
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