The novel Whale Talk written by Chris Crutcher is a novel about a young boy named T.J. In this novel, T.J. is an adopted boy who lives in Cutter, Washington. There are two major themes in this novel, discrimination and sense of self.
The idea of discrimination is a theme in this novel and appears on multiple occasions. One example of discrimination in this novel is when a character named Rich Marshall adopts the illegitimate daughter of his wife. This daughter happens to be half-black. Rich names her a predominately "white" name. T.J. learns that this girl, Heidi, is being abused by Rich when he meets her accidentally at a therapy session. Another time that discrimination occurs in this novel is when the school bully, Mike Barbour, picks on another student named Chris Coughlin who is intellectually disabled.
Sense of self, or the search for identity, is another theme in this novel. T.J. struggles to find a place where he feels welcome and comfortable. T.J. eventually finds a place where this is possible when he starts his swim team.
Other themes in this novel include: adoption, blended families, stress, universality of human existence, and multiculturalism.