Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 221
Stotan!—a 1986 American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults—is, on one level, a detailed account of the physical and psychological struggles of four swimmers as they train for and participate in various meets, including the State Championship. At the same time, the novel is a character study which treats topics such as friendship and loyalty, adversity, racism, endurance, young love, and the effects of abuse and terminal illness. These serious subjects, however, are enlivened with humorous sequences and appealing characters.
As a sports novel, Stotan! provides suspense and drama, and yet it generally avoids cliches and stereotyping. The main characters come across as realistic young adults, at least partially because they are allowed to recount their own stories, each of which provides insight into their personalities. While the team does succeed athletically, Crutcher refrains from too neatly tying up loose ends or providing quick, prepackaged solutions to problems. At the end of the novel, Jeffrey Hawkins is still dying, Walker Dupree is still confused about his feelings for Elaine and Devnee, and Nortie has not reconciled himself with his abusive father. Each member of the team, however, has proved that he is a Stotan. All in all, the novel manages to go beyond mere formula, creating suspense, likeable characters, and a realistic picture of teenage friendships at their best.