Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 212
Whale Talk is the story of Tao Jones, better known as T. J., and a group of high school misfits who are brought together to form an unusual swim team for Cutter High School. At Cutter High, earning a sports jacket is the most prestigious of all symbols, the "shroud of Turin" as T. J. calls it. It also symbolizes discriminatory attitudes and close-mindedness that T. J. vehemently despises. In order to break the power this group has within Cutter High and to get revenge for the abuses he has suffered in life, T. J. makes it his quest to earn a letter jacket for every member of the swim team, a group of emotionally and physically handicapped teenagers.
While practicing at the All Night Fitness gym, T. J. discovers Icko, a man who actually lives in the gym. T. J. enlists Icko to be their swim coach. The gym becomes the team's own personal retreat where this group of students find the freedom to be who they really are, to put behind the prejudice and mistreatment they face daily, and, for the first time, to experience a sense of belonging. Through encouragement and cooperation, these young men not only attain the coveted Cutter letter jacket but gain personal dignity and respect.