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K-12 Evaluated Resource Collection

Synchro Boy

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Author/Publisher/Website: McFerran, S.
Copyright: 2018
Evaluation/Record Entry Date: Jun/2019
Submitting suppliers/Website: Not Available
Primary Identifier: 9781551527444
Recommended Grades and Subjects/Courses: 11-12
(View recommended grades and subjects) English Language Arts

Resource Description

This novel follows a young man’s story to find himself, particularly in the context of his attempt to break into a gender-biased sport. Bart decides to follow his passion for synchronized swimming and finds himself questioning his identity and his sexuality. The novel's themes of sexual identity and gender inequality lend themselves well to classroom discussions, debates, and writing opportunities around the urge for change from traditional stereotypes.


Does the resource support BC curriculum?
This product supports the Core Competencies of the BC curriculum:
Creative Thinking
Critical thinking
Positive Personal and Cultural Identity
Personal Awareness and Responsibility
“Synchro Boy” supports the English Language Arts curriculum in grades 11–12. Bart, the protagonist, tries to evoke change by writing letters. This supports the Big Idea that “language shapes ideas and influences others”. In addition, the novel supports the Core Competency relating to Critical Thinking as it causes the reader to identify any of their own held biases. This also aligns with the Big Idea that “questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens.”


The only example of the elderly that is given is of an older couple who watches the synchronized swimming. They spew hate-filled language at Bart saying, "You people make me sick," and that synchronized swimming is "not for the gays."
Gender Roles, Identity & Sexual Orientation:
There are some portrayals of stereotypical female and male gender roles. There is a very homophobic character who consistently bullies Bart for being a "fag" and a swim coach and father who wants Bart to "suck it up" and participate in the more socially-accepted sport of swimming. As well, some of the mothers are against Bart participating in synchronized swimming. Then there are all the aspects of Bart, who doesn't "look boy or talk boy."
Socio Economic:
When Bart quits swimming, his absentee father refuses to pay for his Sports Institute. This causes the mother to have to work more hours to cover the costs.
There are only two episodes of physical violence; both occur when Bart cannot tolerate being bullied by Geoff anymore and pushes him. In the first incident, Geoff slips on the pool deck and hits his head on the tiles and Bart is suspended.
Some of the humour is used by Geoff to bully Bart. For instance, Geoff makes a joke that Bart has purposely "dropped the soap" in the showers. He also says that Bart should wear a tutu for his "water fairy" dancing. Other humour involves Bart having erections in awkward moments, specifically with Erika, his synchronized swimming partner.
There is a significant amount of profanity in this novel. Some of the language is derogatory and meant to harm Bart for not fitting in as a traditional, heterosexual male. Some of the phrases include “princess”, “attention whore”, “synchro's gay”, “queer”, and “fag”. Other language includes “asshole”, “shit”, and variations of the word "fuck."
Do the social considerations support, rather than detract from, student learning?
Social Considerations Comments:
The social considerations in “Synchro Boy” support student learning. There is a fair amount of profanity, but it is a consistent portrayal of some Canadian adolescent males. The use of language serves to develop characterization and to make the characters authentic. As well, there are a variety of different ethnicities that are equally accepted and respected. Most of the social considerations revolve around issues of gender and sexual identity. “Synchro Boy” confronts the very real bias that exists, and offers positive reactions to all types of people.


Should this product be identified as Canadian?
Is the resource engaging?
Is the content current for the intended curriculum and grade?
Is the content accurate for the intended curriculum and grade?
Is the content timely and important for student broad understandings?
Is the content appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
Does the resource provide opportunities for creative and critical thinking?
Is the level of detail appropriate?
Is the content of particular interest to male students?
Is the content of particular interest to female students?
Is the language use appropriate to the emotional maturity and cognitive level of students?
“Synchro Boy” is not only written by a Canadian author, but it also takes place in Canada. The main action occurs in Victoria, British Columbia, but other Canadian cities are also featured. The resource is engaging and provides a unique voice in the area of sports literature. The novel is relevant and provides many characters of both genders, so it would be of equal interest to both male and female students.


Does the resource make effective use of the medium?
Is the resource easy to use?
Is the use of font, text size and presentation uniform?
“Synchro Boy” is a novel that has forty-one chapters and 269 pages. The font is uniform, except for the chapter titles and chunks of the text that are written and formatted as if they were text messages.


Does the text show insight into the complexity of the human condition?
Does the text broaden students’ experiences and understanding?
To what degree is this text stylistically rich?
Plot description:
Sixteen-year-old Bart "The Bullet" Lively has his future all planned out; he will take his successful swimming career all the way to a free ride at a prestigious university and then maybe to the Olympics. However, life is far from perfect for Bart. He has always been different from the other boys, previously choosing eight years of ballet over other "more manly" sports. He is also struggling to understand and come to terms with his sexual identity, finding both males and females equally attractive. All of these issues come to a boiling point when Bart drops his successful swimming career to begin a new one, as the only male in an all-girl synchronized swimming team.
Related Comments:
“Synchro Boy” chronicles Bart’s journey as he struggles to break into the traditionally all-female sport of synchronized swimming. While attempting to do this, he is simultaneously coming to terms with his own bisexuality. This contemporary novel brings forward the current, relevant, and complicated themes of sexual identity and gender inequality. It does so with characters that are relatable and is realistic in the way that life provides no easy answers.
Literary Highlights:
Complex conflict
Rich Characterization
Well-developed themes


At intended grade level(s)
A summary of the novel and a question-and-answer session with the author can be found here:


“Synchro Boy” could be used as part of a Literature Circle or as an independent novel. Bart, the protagonist, tries to change society by petitioning to allow males to compete in synchronized swimming at the national, international, and Olympic levels. He even contacts Bill May, a real-world synchronized swimmer, and petitions the FINA for change. This novel could be used as a platform to inspire students to think critically of their own society and to try to evoke change. Classroom discussions on gender identity and expectations could be fostered. As well, a teacher could use it as part of a Writer's Workshop on voice or characterization.