Header Image

YA Review: Geese Are Never Swans by Eva Clark and Kobe Bryant

Title: Geese Are Never Swans

Author: Eva Clark and Kobe Bryant

Year Published: 2020

Category: YA fiction (sports)
Pages: 288
Rating: 4 to 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (CA)

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Gus's life is about one thing―swimming. And he knows that the only coach in town who can get him to the Olympics is Coach Marks. So it seems like a simple plan: convince Coach Marks to train him, and everything from there on in is just hard work. Gus has never been afraid of hard work.

But there are a few complications. For one thing, Coach Marks was Danny's coach. Danny, Gus's brother, committed suicide after failing to make the national swimming team―a big step on the way to the Olympics. And for another, Gus and Danny didn't exactly get along; Gus never liked living in Danny's shadow. A shadow that has grown even bigger since his death.

In this powerful novel about the punishing and the healing nature of sports, Gus's rage threatens to swallow him at every turn. He's angry at his brother, his mother, his coach . . . even himself. But as he works toward his goal and through his feelings, Gus does everything he can to channel this burning intensity into excelling at the sport that he and Danny both loved, and finds solace in the same place he must face his demons: in the water.

In addition to Gus's incredible narrative, there are four pieces of original art featured in Geese Are Never Swans. The art was curated by TaskForce, a creative agency that collaborates with the most influential nonprofits, brands, and people taking on the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world. TaskForce builds capacity and community for those shaping a more empathetic society through public opinion and policy. The artists' interpretations of their work are included in the book.

Review: This book appeared in my mailbox one day and I have no idea where it came from or why it was sent to me. It has sat on my TBR shelf for about a year and I finally decided to read it. I hadn't looked at the author or the summary before I started it so I was surprised that Kobe Bryant was involved and that it's about swimming. I was a varsity swimmer in high school and swam for one year in college so that's a good fit.
The artwork within the book is pretty cool; all 4 works are really different from one another. I like that they are on thin film so you can see the words of the story behind them. At the end of the book there is a brief bio of each artist and their explanation of how the art ties in with the book. 

Gus is a difficult character to like for most of this book because he is so angry and hurtful to those around him. Of course, he is angry; he is seventeen, not processing his grief, he's trying to figure out his motivation to swim, and he thinks his mother hates him. So while in real life I'd have a difficult time dealing with Gus, in a novel, I can sympathize with him and watch him spiraling downward.

One of the authors is a psychologist and it shows in the trajectory of this novel as Gus and those around him get help from therapists, grief groups, and medicine. This part is handled really well, with Gus changing as the meds kick in and he starts to process what has happened in his life.

If you like sports stories or novels with a good look at mental health, this one should appeal to you.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Popsugar--TBR book with the ugliest cover. I don't like the word ugliest for this cover, but it isn't exciting or one that is going to entice people to pick up the book.

No comments