Three college juniors. A swim team. A manipulative coach. Unexpected life circumstances. A girl struggling with her sexuality. A story that you will not forget.
Angels Can’t Swim is a novella that captures so many elements of the life of a student-athlete, from mental health to sexuality to relationships. While partially a story about swimming, it is also the story of finding yourself, finding your voice, and figuring out who you want to be. Focusing on college students and those around them but dealing with issues that cross the lifespan, readers from young adult all the way up will all enjoy this book and find something in one of the characters that sounds a little bit like them.
Rating: 4 stars
First off, I’ll just go ahead and get my notes out of the way, because the rest of the review will be singing appraise: the writing for this book could be better. The author obviously has immense skill to write a story like this, which I applaud her for, and I think that this could easily be a 5 star novella if the writing style was tweaked. My reasoning here is that the book is written entirely in third person, which is 100% not the issue, but the book is also a novella, which makes it quite short. Because it is written in third person POV and the pacing is rather quick, the focus needs to jump from person to person smoothly in order for everything to flow well. For the most part, this wasn’t a problem. The author did a good job, especially towards the end, of separating the focus on each character. But, there were moments (e.g. the party the three girls attend) where it began to feel a bit choppy because we were focusing on so much at once.
Now, on to the good stuff!
This book has so much going on, and I’m still kind of questioning how the author managed to fit it all in. While I was reading I just kept coming back to the same thought: This is real life stuff to that actually happens to college students and the author isn’t shying away from being raw and honest.
I personally expected this to be primarily about a single girl struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, but let me tell ya, there is so much more going on here than just that! There is representation of mental illness and eating disorders (that I personally felt was done very well), questioning faith and morals, sexual attraction to someone off limits, copious amounts of stress coming from everyday life activities, and even more that I don’t want to list because I really don’t want to ruin it.
This is kind of a “coming of age” story, if you will, because while the problems that arise throughout this novella aren’t solved by the end, there seems to be a happy ending for everyone involved somewhere close on the horizon. I loved that the three girls in this story were each entirely different from one another, yet their stories could all be told together in such a way that just… makes sense. There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes for everyone around us and most often, we have absolutely no idea! This kind of shows that, and also portrays how keeping secrets like these can be really harmful in a lot of situations. There was one quote that actually comes from the beginning of the book, but that I thought was really good and kind of sets the tone for the rest to come:
“They speak but don’t speak; talk about practice and class and their other friends but not about the things that live inside their heads, the things waiting to be talked about.”
Overall, I’m glad I read it. It was short yet packed full of real life issues. Thank you to the author for reaching out to me and sending me a copy! I look forward to checking out what you produce in the future.