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Kobe Bryant’s YA Novel Is a Must-Read About Teens & Mental Health

The late Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna earlier this year, leaves behind his legacy as a complex athlete, a devoted father and an author and advocate in his own right. The latest in the books co-created by the NBA star, released this week, is a young adult novel that’ll hit close to home for young student athletes grappling with mental health issues, grief and the complicated parts of growing up. 

The book, Geese Are Never Swans, written with psychologist and novelist Eva Clark (who specializes in mental health, social justice and sports) follows the story of a teen swimmer, Gus, mourning the death of his brother who died by suicide, while trying to follow his own Olympic dreams and take care of his own mental health. 

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Image of Geese Are Never Swans book, Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis) Jeff Lewis
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Per the Granity Studios website:

Gus’s life is about one thing―swimming. He is determined to make it to the Olympics and he knows that the only coach in town who can get him there is Coach Marks. So it seems like a simple plan: convince Coach Marks to train him. Everything from there on in is just hard work – and 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 older brother, committed suicide after failing to make the national swimming team, a big step on the way to the Olympics. And for another thing, Gus and Danny didn’t exactly get along when Danny was alive. Gus never liked living in Danny’s shadow, and that shadow has grown even longer since Danny’s 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 through his feelings and toward his goal, Gus does everything he can to channel his anger into excelling at the sport that he and Danny both loved, finding solace in the same place he must face his demons: the water.”

This is the first Young Adult novel from Granity Studios (the content creation company founded by Bryant), though they’d previously published four middle-grade books. In targeting an older, more mature teen audience, Geese Are Never Swans features partnerships with mental health organizations and includes resources from The Hidden Opponent and The Michael Phelps Foundation to help reach young people — particularly the competitive, driven and often less likely to open up about their mental health kind of teens who are often dedicated athletes.

“As the publishing was in the works this past Fall, Kobe’s associates were hoping to list a few resources and related groups in the back of the book to give support to any athletes struggling with mental health. It is an extremely special honor for The Hidden Opponent to be included as one of those resources along with The Michael Phelps Foundation,” Victoria Garrick, founder of The Hidden Opponent said in a Q&A on their site.”It has lit a fire in me that will not stop burning. Everything we do at The Hidden Opponent is truly in Kobe’s honor, and his legacy continues to change lives and impact athletes every single day.”

For more information on the warning signs and prevention of suicide, click here. If you’re considering suicide or fear you may become suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you’re worried about someone you love, visit If you live outside the U.S., you can find a list of suicide-prevention hotlines worldwide here.

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