Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Jumping Off Swings
Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles. Candlewick. 2009. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.
The Plot: Four friends. Ellie, Corinne, Caleb, Josh. High School Juniors. Ellie and Josh "hook up." Three months later, she's late. One person's choices impact all their lives.
The Good: You start feeling sorry for Ellie and hating Josh. It's September, and Josh walks away from the van as Ellie fixes her clothes. She thought, this time, this one time, the guy would stay. She watches as Josh returns to the party and laughs with his friends. And, she realizes, laughs at her. With his friends, some of the other boys -- boys who she believes as the say they love her, yet then walk away and laugh. Hook ups but no boyfriends. It's her friend, Corinne, who is there as Ellie throws up, disgusted.
Different chapters tell the different point of views -- Ellie, believing the boys, wanting the love, being left with nothing. Corinne, the best friend who doesn't know what to say or do. Caleb, their friend who has a crush on Ellie and doesn't want to believe the rumors about her. Josh, who did believe the rumors and now is embarrassed by what he did and didn't do.
Knowles drops in on these four for a few days every few months; in September, when Ellie and Josh hook up and Ellie realizes that her attempts to find love are having the opposite affect. When Josh realizes that his actions don't reflect the person he thinks he is. In December, when Ellie realizes she is pregnant and isn't sure what to do or who to tell. In March and June, when Ellie, Josh, Corinne and Caleb live with the consequences of their friends' actions.
Swings are an actual physical place -- where these teens go to escape, where they meet each other now and met each other as children. But it also reflects teens with a foot in two worlds: childhood and adulthood. Trying to figure out how to leave one and enter the other. Is it what one does -- having sex? What one does not do? Is it how one deals with the consequences of ones actions? Does one choice define us, or is it the sum of our choices?
At the beginning, it is Ellie, left alone, who we know the most, who we feel sorry for. But as the story unravels, we see more about each of these four teens. Corinne, who everyone thinks is the bad girl because her sister had an abortion last year. Caleb, shy, a bit nerdy, who doesn't say what he wants until it's almost too late. Josh, who has been emotionally abandoned by his parents and was looking for -- something -- that night in September, something more than a conquest, a joke, a laugh. Josh, who needs as much reassurance and love and acceptance as Ellie. As anyone.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy