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Synchro Boy
Cover of Synchro Boy
Synchro Boy
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Sixteen-year-old Bart Lively desperately wants to feel comfortable in his own skin. Sure, he's a competitive swimmer, but being a jock doesn't mean he isn't the target of gay jokes, and the macho culture of his swim club is wearing him down. At the same time, he becomes drawn to the art and athleticism of synchronized swimming, the idea of the human form moving to music under water. So he jumps at the opportunity to become the first boy on the synchro swimming team, even if it means others start questioning his masculinity even more. He starts finding himself attracted to his teammate Erika, and when she asks Bart to swim with her in a brand new event, the mixed duet, he commits to taking them all the way to the Olympics. But Bart's difficulty at achieving the skills he needs, and Erika's sudden decision to quit the duet, threaten to derail his dream and kill what made the sport so liberating and alluring in the first place. And it doesn't help that as he falls in love with Erika, he's falling in lust with her enemy and synchro rival Chelsea ... not to mention a cute boy in the diving club. Ultimately, Bart will have to give in to his intuition that leads him to realize there are many ways to be a boy. If he doesn't, he'll not only lose his friendship with Erika, but his new Olympic dream—and the joy he feels as he dances in the deep.
Sixteen-year-old Bart Lively desperately wants to feel comfortable in his own skin. Sure, he's a competitive swimmer, but being a jock doesn't mean he isn't the target of gay jokes, and the macho culture of his swim club is wearing him down. At the same time, he becomes drawn to the art and athleticism of synchronized swimming, the idea of the human form moving to music under water. So he jumps at the opportunity to become the first boy on the synchro swimming team, even if it means others start questioning his masculinity even more. He starts finding himself attracted to his teammate Erika, and when she asks Bart to swim with her in a brand new event, the mixed duet, he commits to taking them all the way to the Olympics. But Bart's difficulty at achieving the skills he needs, and Erika's sudden decision to quit the duet, threaten to derail his dream and kill what made the sport so liberating and alluring in the first place. And it doesn't help that as he falls in love with Erika, he's falling in lust with her enemy and synchro rival Chelsea ... not to mention a cute boy in the diving club. Ultimately, Bart will have to give in to his intuition that leads him to realize there are many ways to be a boy. If he doesn't, he'll not only lose his friendship with Erika, but his new Olympic dream—and the joy he feels as he dances in the deep.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book CHAPTER ONE

    Today I catch the eye of the synchro girl with dark hair and good dimples, just before I dive off the starting block. It's the last race of the meet — if I swim my Triple A time now, I've got a shot at the National Team.
    That is, if Geoff doesn't kill me first.
    The girl with the good dimples smiles at me. I smile back. I've been watching the synchro girls for ages, so it's fun that they're all lined up along the wall of the dive tank now, watching me. When I watch them, they don't even notice me looking. Well, if they do, they don't show it — and I get it. They're performers. I danced for seven years, so I remember what that was like to be in front of the fourth wall. But they're the dancers now. I'm just a fish. I hunch over on the block, ready to propel myself in the water.
    I wonder if she thinks I belong here. Because some days, I don't even feel like I fit in with the guys on the Rosa Waves team. I don't think like them, or joke like them — and I may be great at long course, but I don't look the part. I'm the only guy on the blocks with long, lean limbs, the only one with slender shoulders. I don't have a swimmer's hunch. I spent too many years in front of a mirror with my shoulders back, working my core, before I found my way to the pool.
    Yeah, I'm the pretty one. No, go ahead, you can say it. I know you're thinking it. Swimmers, take your marks. I look down at my reflection, staring back at me from the pool's still, flat surface.
    The horn sounds.
    I push off and dive as far as I can, holding my head down.
    When I surface and breathe to my right, Nanaimo's swimmer for the relay is already ahead of me by a stroke. He's a big guy, shoulders twice my size. It's okay. I just pull harder. When I breathe left, I glimpse the pace clock.
    When I breathe right, Nanaimo's still a head in front. I tell myself I just have to be fast enough for the qualifying time.
    Left breath after the turn. The pace clock says 31 seconds. Too slow. Pull harder. Kick harder.
    Last breath on the right side.
    I pull with everything I've got, forcing myself to keep my head down, no more breaths, no more drag. I'm going to make it to nine strokes this time.
    Eight more strokes. Seven, six, five, four.
    Pull harder.
    Three more strokes, then I slap my hand on the deck. Andy dives over my head. Do I have my time? The pace clock says 57 by the time I look up. Too close to know for sure.
    I get out, and the timers in my lane are both standing up. The guy's helping the lady dry spilled coffee off of her clipboard, her clothes.
    The other two lanes are well behind us now, and the stands are screaming. You gotta love that about a qualifier at your home pool.
    Andy gets out, and I raise my hand for a high-five.
    "We could have had first." He shakes his head.
    "We might still!"
    I go to look over the timer's shoulder, but the split time's not there. Why?
    "Hey, sorry... what happened to my split time?
    "It was an accident. Someone knocked my elbow and — "
    The official walks over to us.
    "Get off the deck! You know you're not supposed to talk to the timers."
    "I know, but..."
    I go to the back of the deck, and watch Geoff jump in.
    I know exactly what happened.
    See, Coach Cragg put me first in the medley so my time could qualify — but that meant there would be no anchor — instead, we had the slowest guy bring up the rear. And that means Geoff's gotta swim breaststroke, which he hates.
    I know, I don't get it. Who hates breaststroke?
    Anyway, Geoff was shooting daggers at me when I got up on the starting...
Reviews-
  • School Library Journal

    November 1, 2018

    Gr 10 Up-Sixteen-year-old swimmer Bart Lively is not sure where his dreams will take him-does he want to stick with racing or pursue synchronized swimming? Bart's father wants him to stay in racing, even though he has not played a part in his life. Bart is also trying to figure out his sexuality and sense of identity as he develops feelings for his long-time swimming partner, Erika. His attraction to another diver, Dave, are also evident. This novel has a strong, fully developed male protagonist. Teens who are struggling with their sense of identity and family issues will relate to the burgeoning romances and the drawn-out emotional conflict between Bart and his father. The secondary characters are less fleshed out than Bart and Erika, but young people will still want to pick up the book. VERDICT An excellent addition to YA shelves. Purchase where Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg is popular.-Amy Lukich, Tinley Park Public Library, IL

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2018
    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)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus Reviews "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."
  • Bill May, synchronized swimming champion "I love Synchro Boy! I think it is very true to the sport of synchronized swimming. Thank you so much for writing this!"
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    Arsenal Pulp Press
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Synchro Boy
Synchro Boy
Shannon McFerran
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