"Bart is a teenaged boy drawn to synchronized swimming, which puts his masculinity into question--and worse, his own expectations"--Provided by publisher.
Age range 14+
Bart is a teenaged boy drawn to synchronized swimming, which puts his masculinity - and worse, his own expectations - into question.
Sixteen-year-old Bart Lively desperately wants to feel comfortable in his own skin. Being a jock doesn't mean he isn't the target of gay jokes, and the macho culture of his swim team is wearing him down. When he gives in to his curiosity and tries synchronized swimming, he discovers he has a natural talent -- not to mention a spark with one of the girls. So when Erika Tenaka asks him to swim the mixed duet with her, he commits to taking them all the way to the Olympics.
But judges' scores and Erika's sudden decision to quit the duet threaten to derail Bart's 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 frenemy ... not to mention a cute boy in the diving club.
Ultimately, Bart will have to give in to his intuition as it leads him to realize there are many ways to be a boy. If he doesn't, he'll lose not only his friendship with Erika but also his new Olympic dream - and the joy he feels as he dances in the deep.
'Synchro Boy is the kind of book the world needs more of: a book that challenges readers to think more deeply about gender and gender expression. Bart's story -- of a boy who has never fit easily into a gender stereotyped box, who has endured years of gender policing, who is bravely determined to find his own path in both sports and relationships -- is an important and powerful one. Readers will cheer Bart on as he swims his way towards "living a different kind of maleness.' Robin Stevenson, author of Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community
'Synchro Boy is a funny, bittersweet story of a teenaged boy's self-awareness and acceptance, set within that ultimate crucible of teenage lust: the swimming pool. By joining synchro, Bart pushes against the narrow cage of masculinity, only to discover just how hard the bars will push back. Armed with perseverance, hope, and some edifying relationships, he finds the courage to follow his synchro dreams. Readers will come to know and appreciate the challenge and camaraderie of synchronized swimming.' Douglas Davey, author of Switch
Shannon McFerran studied writing at the University of Victoria, and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She has published short stories in numerous literary magazines and a YA anthology. Synchro Boy is her first novel.
"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." --Kirkus Reviews "I love Synchro Boy! I think it is very true to the sport of synchronized swimming. Thank you so much for writing this!" --Bill May, synchronized swimming champion
"Synchro Boy is a funny, bittersweet story of a teenaged boy's self-awareness and acceptance, set within that ultimate crucible of teenage lust: the swimming pool. By joining synchro, Bart pushes against the narrow cage of masculinity, only to discover just how hard the bars will push back. Armed with perseverance, hope, and some edifying relationships, he finds the courage to follow his synchro dreams. Readers will come to know and appreciate the challenge and camaraderie of synchronized swimming." --Douglas Davey, author of Switch br>"Synchro Boy is the kind of book the world needs more of: a book that challenges readers to think more deeply about gender and gender expression. Bart's story--of a boy who has never fit easily into a gender stereotyped box, who has endured years of gender policing, who is bravely determined to find his own path in both sports and relationships--is an important and powerful one. Readers will cheer Bart on as he swims his way towards 'living a different kind of maleness.'" --Robin Stevenson, author of Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community
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 block. Let''s just say that uh... he takes his racing very seriously. Not that I don''t -- the National Team trials is my program goal, signed by me and my mom at the start of every school year at the Sports Institute. I just don''t feel like it''s worth getting mad at your teammates, you know? But Geoff''s been pissed at me ever since I got faster last year. He bumped her elbow. At just the right time. Geoff''s giving it everything he''s got, trying to make up for lost time, but it''s clear. He''s not going to make it. Nanaimo comes in first. He gets out and rips his goggles off. He looks amused. "So, Princess, you get your time?" Princess. That''s it. "You hit the table, you jerk!" I lunge for him, and Geoff jumps back, but he slips, his feet coming out from under him, his head hitting the tile. I wasn''t going to hit him. I swear I just wanted to scare him. But now some officials are coming over here, and Geoff''s holding his head as everyone clears tables and chairs off the deck. The meets over. "What the holy --?" Geoff sputters. "Oh my god." "I''m so sorry, man. So sorry." I try to catch his eye, but Geoff just stays with his head down, and when he opens his mouth, there''s blood. "Oh, Geoff -- I think you''re bleeding." "''Cause I bit my tongue, you asshole!" Geoff kicks my shin. "Ow!" I look up at Coach Cragg, who''s telling the others to back off. Great. Then he helps Geoff stand up, and sits him on a deck chair. Coach checks his eyes, and holds up fingers to see if Geoff''s concussed. When he decides he''s okay, he turns to me, and stares. Everyone on the team is quiet. I hear the screams of the kids in the wave pool, and the thwanging of diving boards. I feel stapled to the ground under his glare. "That''s it, Bart." "I''m sorry, Coach. I didn''t mean to hurt him. But he sabotaged my score --" "I don''t care," Coach shakes his head. "You don''t breathe when I tell you to breathe, you don''t focus, you stare off at the bloody synchro team when I''m trying to get your attention, and now you''re playing around like you''re in goddamn Aquatots or something. How old are you?" "Sixteen, sir." "You''re not acting like it." I stare at the tile by my feet. I can''t look at anyone. Certainly not over at the pool where the girl with the good dimples could be looking at me and thinking I''m a wound up jerk. My eyes drift up to the empty spot on the plaque where my name''s supposed to go at the end of this season. As long as this shit with Geoff doesn''t screw it up. "Go get changed, Lively. You''re done for today." "You want me to leave?" "Yeah, get out of here. Get yourself together. Come back next week." "What? You''re suspending me?" "Yes, and when you come back, I want you here every day, doing your best. No picking fights. You hear me?" "This is unbelievable! What about Geoff? Did you see what he did? I don''t have my time because of him!" "I don''t care. I can''t be concerned about your time if you''re going to attack your teammates." Cragg shakes his head. "You''re up for national competition for god''s sake." Fine. This is bullshit, but I know better than to push it with Cragg. When I do, it just gets back to my Dad, and that leads to him calling me from the oil patch for the express purpose of making me feel like crap. I take off to the warm pool to do a few laps to get the stress out of my system. Then Geoff stops on his way to the locker room. "Geoff, look, I''m sorry about your head. I really am." "You wanted me to hit the deck." "I did not!" I keep my eyes on the synchro girls practicing their egg beater, doing laps of it across the dive tank. "You know you''re such a fucking ballerina, you should just go join them." "Who?" "The goddamned water ballet, Bart. Isn''t that what you want?" "No! Geez." "Oh, come on. You''ve been staring at them every chance you get." "Well? So what?" "So... it''s Try It Day. You should go." The sandwich board sign''s at the edge of the dive tank like it is every Sunday in September, trying to get more swimmers to join. Synchro Swimming -- Try It! Free session, Sunday, 11 am. And for the first time, I''m not in a practice with the Rosa Waves. But this is a trap. Geoff just wants to see me do it so he can get more fuel for teasing me. "It''s okay, Princess. If you''re too scared to go over there and join them, I understand. Those girls are pretty scary." "Don''t call me Princess." Geoff just grins. "Look at you. You are scared -- but, of what? The girls? Or doing what you want?" His question guts me. So Geoff just thinks that I''m some chicken shit? That''s it. I am so sick of him, and Coach, and all the macho guys on Rosa Waves giving me a hard time -- and for what? "I do what I like." "Yeah?" "Yeah. Watch me." Before I fully appreciate what I''m actually doing, I start crossing the ten tiles between our pool and the dive tank. Half way there, I think, crap. What am I doing? Geoff calls at my back, "Enjoy your holiday, Princess." I flip him the bird over my shoulder. CHAPTER TWO I walk over to the podium and sound system where the synchro coach stands. The synchro girls look up at me. Chelsea stops talking, and just stares. Then the girl with the good dimples turns around to see who she''s looking at -- I smile and give her a little wave. Then I turn back to look at Geoff, but he''s already walking off the deck -- Instead, I''m looking straight at Coach. He just shakes his head. The girls break their stare when a short, fit woman with her hair up in a messy ponytail comes up to me. I hold out my hand. "Hi, I''m Bart." "Hi, Bart. I''m Su-Yun. What can I do for you?" she asks me as we shake, and I''m surprised to find her voice so familiar. But of course I''ve heard her shouting over the noisy pool at the girls so many times. "Um..." I motion toward the sandwich board. "I''m here to try synchro for free?" She looks behind m
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