Swim the Fly Book Poster Image

Swim the Fly

Stereotypical boys, objectified girls, no redeeming message.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Matt, Sean, and Coop are preoccupied by their goal of seeing a naked girl before summer ends. They lie and cheat with no real consequences except that their crazy schemes never work out.

Positive role models

The main characters see girls as nothing more than bodies to ogle. They lie and cheat without major consequences, and even Matt's grandfather is deceitful when it comes to women.


Matt is chased by a bigger boy and thrown into a pool. He hits his head and is knocked unconscious. Coop's dad tells a story from his teen years in which he breaks an old man's nose with a stick of salami.


Matt and his brother and friends tease each other about masturbating, there are multiple uses of varied slang for genitalia, and the use of pornography is mentioned a couple of times. The boys spy on a nude beach; two of the boys try to peek over a dressing room door where girls are trying on bathing suits. At a party, the boys hear a girl ask her friend for a condom because she's going to meet a random boy in the bedroom, so the boys hide in the bedroom's closet in order to watch. They take pictures of the couple undressing each other and post them on Facebook without their knowledge.


Teens use language including "f--k," "goddamn," "ass," and "s--t," and many slang terms like "pants hamster" and "tenting your Speedo."


Some brands like Playboy, iPod, Tootsie Pop, Facebook, Speedo, Marlboro, O'Doul's, and Mountain Dew are mentioned. Kelly likes to shop and calls Valerie "boring" because she's saving her money for college.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The boys attend a teen party where everyone has to bring alcohol in order to get in. The main characters bring non-alcoholic beer, but other teens bring alcohol and one secondary character says she might be drunk. Matt's mother used to smoke Marlboros, but now smokes organic cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the focus of this coming-of-age novel is the main characters' goal to see a naked woman in real life, without the woman's knowledge. The boys lie to parents, girls, and a swim coach. They tease each other about masturbation and refer to using internet porn and reading Playboy. They attend a party where teens are drinking, and they spy on and take pictures of a couple who are planning to have sex at the party. There are no real consequences for their behavior and, in fact, they are rewarded in some ways. By the time Matt decides not to lie anymore, the book is almost over and he has a girlfriend anyway. Matt's dad left his mom for a younger woman, but this is only mentioned in passing and not really explored as far as how this might affect the family.

What's the story?

Freshman swim team members, Matt, Sean, and Coop set a goal to see a naked girl by the end of summer, and the entire book revolves around their schemes to spy on various young women. Matt volunteers to swim the butterfly, a very difficult stroke for him, in order to impress Kelly, who is preoccupied with her cheating ex-boyfriend. Late in the book, Matt has a crisis of conscience, but doesn't really stand up to his friends about his conflicted feelings. He still goes along with their ploys, but tries to foil them behind the scenes.

Is it any good?


This could've been a good coming-of-age story if the focus had shifted from the challenge of seeing a naked girl to Matt's challenge of swimming the butterfly much sooner in the story. As it stands, it seems that Matt's focus changes because he suddenly finds himself with a girlfriend (a nice girl that he hung out with but never even thought of in that way until she finally gave him the "I like you like you" talk and kissed him). Some kids might find the main characters' antics and failures funny; however, there is no realization on the part of the boys that girls are actually people with feelings and not just bodies to look at or things to make out with.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the boys' goal. Why was there such urgency about it? What does the fact that they wanted to see a naked woman without her knowledge say about how they view women as people?

  • Matt's dad left his mom for a younger woman, and his grandfather is not honest in his relationships either. How do you think this could affect Matt's relationships? How do you think Matt could overcome these influences?

  • Why would Kelly get back together with Tony after he cheated on her so often? Why was Matt so preoccupied with Kelly when she couldn't even remember his name?

  • Why didn't Matt notice Valerie until she expressed interest in him?

Book details

Author:Don Calame
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:April 14, 2009
Number of pages:345
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17

This review of Swim the Fly was written by

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Teen, 13 years old Written byVickyLOVEbooks December 17, 2011


I think this book is way too much sex talk,and I dont think its appropriate for kids under age 13. I really havent let my kids read it yet,and they are 14 and 16. SEX IS NOT GOOD.
Teen, 13 years old Written bygertyrock October 26, 2013

Amazing book

This book was an amazing book. I could not put this book down, and just finished the last book in the series. This book is a must-read, and the best book for teens!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent of a 13 year old Written byInvolved Parent... March 5, 2010

Terrible role model book for adolescent boys.

I am a father of a 13-year-old boy. His teacher recommended this book. My son actually asked me to read the jacket to see what I thought. When I read that the book was about a bunch of teenage guys wanting to see a naked girl, I was more than a little surprised. I read the book and thought it was very inappropriate for a middle school student to read for an assignment. I feel also that it was inappropriate for my son's teacher to suggest such trash.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking