REVIEW: Caterpillars Can’t Swim, Liane Shaw (Sep. 12, 2017)

This is the second book I’ve read from Second Story Press, and I truly admire this publisher for their dedication to stories about equality, social justice, and ableism. I highly suggest checking out their catalog if these things (and great storytelling) matter to you.

Caterpillars Can’t Swim is told from the perspective of Ryan, a high schooler who has cerebral palsy. He is wheelchair bound, but is generally perceived as your typical teenage boy. He does stupid things with his friends, thinks about girls, and participates in varsity sports. Nice, right?

When Ryan believes he’s witnessing someone drowning, he dives into action. This is how he meets his classmate, Jack, who is perpetually bullied for being perceived as gay. When it becomes clear that this wasn’t an accident, Ryan takes it on himself to become Jack’s protector and friend.

This book feels true and relevant to today’s society, where the “privileged” take on the role of Savior for the “oppressed.” Jack’s struggles are relatable and believable. I especially identified with this quote, “I can’t tell the counselor I was trying to hurt myself on purpose because I wasn’t. I was trying to make the hurting stop.” The most heartwarming moment for me didn’t come between the new friendship of Jack and Ryan, but during a trip to a local comic-con where Jack meets some college students who show him that he won’t always feel alone and rejected. I hope every teen in the world has this epiphany during their formative years.

3 / 5 stars for me. Thank you Second Story Press for my digital ARC. Caterpillars Can’t Swim is available now.

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