After Bart, a dancer-turned–competitive swimmer, impulsively joins his Victoria, British Columbia, high school’s all-female synchronized swim team, he finds himself challenging heteronormative expectations both in and out of school.
Even Bart’s reasons for joining synchro—to prove to his former swim coach and homophobic teammates that he’s 100 percent boy and to get closer to Erika, his half-Japanese/half-white duet partner—reflect his awareness of, and susceptibility to, social expectations for young men. Yet, even as he falls for Erika, he falls in love with the sport itself, quickly joining the push to include coed synchro duets in high-level competitions (including, hopefully, the Olympics). Through Bart’s conversational style of narration, McFerran (Girls’ Diary Project, 2014) interrogates toxic masculinity and challenges social expectations for all teens. This is evident both in Bart’s comparison of synchro training to his old swim practices, in which he acknowledges the complex technical skill required for synchro, and in his exploration of the attraction he feels to both Erika and Dave, a boy on the diving team. Though he faces homophobic verbal attacks both at school and at meets, Bart, who is white, is supported by Julia, a gay black teammate. Bart’s eventual acceptance that he is bisexual gives him the confidence to lean into synchro while easing off on the need to validate his own masculinity through sporting achievements.
A nuanced, compassionate exploration of male sexuality and identity. (Fiction. 12-18)