Eric Callhoun, also known as Moby, spent most of his junior high and high school days as the fat kid. Although his participation on the swim team slims him down, his nickname sticks. Sarah Byrnes has been burned and disfigured by a childhood accident and is no stranger to being called names. Eric and Sarah Byrnes have been best friends since they were children and despite his lack of self-confidence, Eric has always been fiercely protective of Sarah Byrnes. Not that Sarah has ever needed protecting. She’s tough as nails and willing to take on anyone that comes her way. Knowing how smart and strong Sarah Byrnes is, Eric knows something big has occurred when she lands in a hospital, not saying a word. Through the saving grace of an incredibly kind and provocative teacher Eric finds the nerve to stand up for himself and find the answers to what is keeping Sarah Byrnes down.
I had a difficult time getting into the beginning of this book. In the first fifty pages, there are long passages describing Eric’s pool workouts and not a lot of action. These passages bored me and left me seeking action. I also felt like the narrative needed more backstory on Sarah Byrnes in order to get that plot line off the ground. It took a long time to get the story rolling and I nearly abandoned the book altogether after seventy pages. That being said, the book really picks up and turns into a compelling read after that. Eric is a fiercely loyal friend to Sarah Byrnes (I type her name out in full because that is the way she is referred to in the book) and he transforms from a willy-nilly wimp to a brave and confident man throughout the narrative. The friendship that Eric and Sarah Byrnes have is endearing and true. They stick up for each other when times are bad and ultimately save one another’s lives.
Although the book is well-written, some of the plausibility of the scenes is to be questioned. Mrs. Lemry is Eric’s teacher and swim coach and teaches a class called Contemporary American Thought in which the students basically debate hot-button topics in a discussion format. A lot of the topics were pretty controversial and I couldn’t see a high school teacher touching those issues in that manner in a classroom setting. There’s also a lot of interaction between the vice-principal and the students that seems questionable. The vice-principal in the story frequently has the students in his office and oversteps his boundaries in accusing them of wrongdoing. His conversations with the students seem awfully out of line for a school official without a student’s parent present.
Even with the plausibility in question, the book is really very good. Sarah Byrnes’ story is heartbreaking and Eric’s love for his best friend is touching. the book does an excellent job of showing how far out of one’s comfort zone someone can go when the wellbeing of the ones they love is on the line. The book grapples with some difficult questions and does an excellent job of presenting answers that young adults can relate to. After a rough start, I feel like the book redeemed itself and I ended up really enjoying it.