Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Posted by on Nov 16, 2014 in Book Reviews, British Columbia | 0 comments

Swim the FlySummary: Matt, Sean and Cooper are best friends who have a goal for their summer vacation: seeing a woman naked in real life. But when Matt volunteers to rescue his swim team by swimming the butterfly stroke race in competitions in order to impress a girl, his focus shifts. With a body built for freestyle swimming, it’s going to take everything he has to even complete the race let alone place in it. Fortunately Sean and Cooper’s ingenuity when it comes to achieving their summer goal also comes in handy with helping Matt get through the competitions one by one. It’s certain to be a summer they will never forget.

Number of Pages: 345

Age Range: 15-17

Review: Motivated by their overwhelming hormones, three best friends decide the next step on the path to having sex someday is seeing a real live woman naked. It’s not easy, and leads to many embarrassing moments and misunderstandings. Nothing seems to go as planned as they try many creative options to achieve their goal.

But this story is told from Matt’s perspective, and him aspiring to get the girl by volunteering for an impossible task of swimming the fly also seems hopeless. Backed by his two best friends he makes his way through the competitions one at a time. If he can only win the last race, he is certain he can catch the eye of his crush Kelly, except getting to that point is harder than it seems.

There are many, many hilarious moments in Don Calame’s book, but my favourites involved Matt’s grandfather. Trying to woo Matt’s newly widowed neighbour, Mrs. Hoogenboom, Matt’s grandfather seems to get him into one scrape after another. His logic when it comes to enticing her out of her grief is humourous, and when I read the scene where Matt is forced to play Mrs. Hoogenboom so his grandfather can practice asking her out I laughed till I cried.

Matt’s just such a great character. Yes, I was often grossed out by the antics of teenage boys, but Matt quickly separated himself from the pack, showing himself to have heart and increasing respect for women. Calame has truly captured the voice and dreams of a group of teen boys, while managing to make them loveable at the same time. They are lucky to be surrounded by a cast of equally memorable characters: sisters, parents, a grandfather and a mysterious Ulf.

Swim the Fly is my favourite of Calame’s trilogy about the three best friends, and I have read them all. They’re unique because Calame isn’t afraid to show the guys as they are, even with their flaws, swearing, and various bodily excretions. And he does it all while keeping his reader in stitches.

Memorable Quotes:

“It’s up with the arms and head, suck in a breath, and back under again. A hard kick with feet together. Weaving in and out of the water. You’re supposed to look like ¬†dolphin. Smooth and graceful. You’re not supposed to look like a palsied whippet struggling for its life. Which is exactly what I feel like. I am all splash and very little momentum.” – Matt talking about the butterfly stroke from Swim the Fly by Don Calame, pages 41-42

“Ms. Luntz is trying to help Sean up, but he’s not making it easy. He’s all deadweight, wriggling around.


‘Don’t move me,’ Sean groans.


And that’s when he makes a dive for the edge of the pool and lets fly a rainbow torrent the like of which I’ve never seen before in my life. It’s like an open fire hydrant plugged directly into hell.” – Matt describing Sean throwing up from Swim the Fly by Don Calame, page 110

“I realize now that I am a terrible, terrible liar. I mean, how am I supposed to get a picture of my entire swim team in dress clothes with towels around their necks and goggles on their heads? And how am I supposed to get Pete to buy Mom a giant, unhidable present? What would that even be? A statue? A totem pole?” – Matt reflecting on his lies to explain his attire and desperation to keep his mother out of his brother’s room from Swim the Fly by Don Calame, page 141

“But Peter just slogs over to his bed and sits down, the mattress squeaking under his weight.


And then he starts to sob. His whole body shaking. He buries his face in his hands.


I knew he’d be upset, but I didn’t think he’d be so broken up he wouldn’t even be able to beat the crap out of me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cry like this.


Part of me feels like I should go over and give him a hug. But my survival instinct reminds me that you don’t hug a bear with a sore head, even if he’s sad.” – Matt from Swim the Fly by Don Calame, page 307

Swim the Fly by Don Calame is published by Candlewick Press, (2009).

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