His whole life, Danny Kelly's only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he's ever done-every thought, every dream, every action-takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.
His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. Danny's win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys-he's Barracuda, he's the psycho, he's everything they want to be but don't have the guts to get there. He's going to show them all.
He would be first, everything would be alright when he came first, all would be put back in place. When he thought of being the best, only then did he feel calm.
Should we teach our children to win, or should we teach them to live? How do we make and remake our lives? Can we atone for our past? Can we overcome shame? And what does it mean to be a good person?
This is one of the most moving and exquisite novels I’ve read in a long while. The author offers an incredibly authentic voice in his flawed protagonist, Danny Kelly, which lingers in the reader’s mind long after the last page is done.
The writing is relentlessly poignant. It is honest in a manner that is sometimes difficult to read, but offers some gorgeous sentences that resonate with anyone who has ever strived for something and somehow lost their way. The manner in which the author told the story also adds to the many dimensions this novel has to offer. It takes the reader back and forth through time, tingeing the victories of Kelly’s early life with the knowledge the reader has of what is to come. The last couple of pages, in particular, are difficult to read, but give the novel the perfect ending.
The honesty of the writing might not for everyone. The author does not shy away from anything, which makes the novel both exciting and brutal to read.
This is a novel that I will be recommending to everyone for a long time. With its compelling story and a protagonist that leaps off the page, this one is a must read.