From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–Oates has produced another novel with a compelling story line and a complex protagonist. Darren Flynn is incredibly good-looking, but isn't quite sure how to handle all the admiring attention he receives from females and males alike. In addition, his teachers and swimming coach remark consistently on his untapped potential and the way he holds himself back both in the pool and in his writing, and Darren knows this to be true. The teen's hardscrabble rural New England lifestyle is juxtaposed with the professional, well-off families of his friends. As in Big Mouth and Ugly Girl
(HarperCollins, 2002), Oates takes an ambiguous and uncomfortable incident with a male teacher and allows the story to unravel through rumor and innuendo into a horrible climax. Here, a retaliatory attack on the man's character by some disgruntled students careens out of control and has deadly consequences. The characters of family and friends are well drawn but the star is the protagonist, and Darren's authenticity shines through. The male-centered, first-person narrative and athletic allusions make this novel appealing to reluctant male readers. This is sure to be a popular title and is great for sparking discussion, even though the explicit language and subject matter may be problematic in some schools.–Courtney Lewis, Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School, Kingston, PA
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Gr. 9-12. Fans of Oates' previous YA books will want to read this book, which, like Freaky Green Eyes
(2003), is written in fragmented sentences meant to create a conversational effect. Sixteen-year-old Darren Flynn is a good-looking "guy's guy," a junior on the swim team, but he is uncomfortable with his maturing body and with girls. Darren believes men watch him, too, something that both disgusts and excites him. A seemingly innocent encounter with his English teacher, Mr. Tracy, troubles Darren. There are rumors Tracy is gay, and after the teacher flunks one of Darren's teammates, some boys retaliate, implicating Tracy in child porn. Tracy, who insists he is innocent, appeals to Darren for help. Teens will be drawn into the story, wanting to know if Darren is gay and if he will vouch for his teacher. But Oates loses control of her plot by dividing her attention among too many issues--sexual orientation (there's even a scene in which Darren has sex with a college girl), personal responsibility, and betrayal--and the ethical debate becomes too muddied to follow. Readers may come away as confused as Darren is by the close of the novel. Cindy DobrezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved