There's something wonderfully cinematic about Swim the Fly. I'm seeing teen movie written all over this. Perhaps it's not surprising since Don Calame, new to writing novels, has a previous career as a screenwriter. Like Melvin Burgess's notorious Doing It, this is sort of a romantic comedy. But guy-style. And with some major embarrassment thrown in.
Swim the Fly is the story of three best friends with a long-standing tradition of challenging themselves each summer to reach a group goal. This summer, their goal is "to see a real live naked girl for the first time". Since they are too young to get into a strip club and none of them has ever had a date, it's not immediately obvious just how this is going to happen for them. Let's just say their progressive attempts to succeed get more and more ridiculous, and when they finally reach their goal, it's hilarious. I've never seen reality crash into fantasy quite so hard.
The book's title refers to another challenge the book's narrator, Matt, sets for himself, which is to swim the 100-yard butterfly against the girl of his dream's buff ex-boyfriend. To impress her, natch. Never mind that he's the worst swimmer on his team, the ex-boyfriend is solid muscle, and the butterfly is a killer stroke. Never mind that the girl of his dreams is an airhead who keeps calling him Mark instead of Matt. Never mind that his coach never seems to do any actual coaching...well, you get the picture. Wouldn't be a challenge if it were easy, right?
Along with being so funny, this book is affectionate and warm. The characters are convincing, and we really like them, even when they do dumb things. And they grow, but we don't get hit over the head with their "life lessons". It's all kept light and lively. I think I'd go so far as to say that this is my favourite summer romance of this year. And I'm not even a teen boy.