Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Title: Jumping off Swings
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 230
Release date: August 11th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their "one-time thing" is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind.

First sentence:
I can still feel a trace of his warm lips on mine as he slips away from me and fumbles for the door to his father's van.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really liked Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles (review), so I was excited to read another one of her books. Still, I wasn't sure whether or not I would enjoy this one as much, since the idea isn't as unique as Lesson from a Dead Girl's, and I was a little worried about how the author would handle four distinct points of view, just because I usually prefer only one or two narrators. However, the different perspectives turned out to be what I liked best about Jumping Off Swings, and I ended up liking this one even more than Lessons from a Dead Girl!

The writing is what makes this whole thing work. Jo Knowles's writing is incredible, so beautiful. She manages to create a great atmosphere - even though the plot isn't the saddest story ever, the sad but beautiful atmosphere gives the whole novel a tragic feel. It's the kind of writing that can make you start bawling at any moment, no matter what's going on, just because of the sadness and beauty of it all. Jo Knowles's writing reminded me of Courtney Summers and Sara Zarr - all three can get me to burst out crying with just a few sentences.

Like I said, I'm not usually a fan of more than two narrators - it's really hard to give multiple narrators disctinct voices. But Jo Knowles made it work, and I could develop feelings for each character. I really liked how the narrative made us think of different ways of looking at the issue, and I enjoyed seeing how one problem affected these all characters differently.

Ellie's a conflicting but well-written character. At times I wanted to shake her and make her stop being so stupid and trustworthy and stand up for herself, but for the most part, I felt for her. Her feelings about the pregnancy are portrayed really well, and that made me understand the issue much better than other teenage-pregnancy books have. I wanted to hate Josh, but I just couldn't. In the beginning, he was easy to hate, seeing how he treated Ellie and all, but after seeing it his way, you can't help but feel for him, too. Caleb is my favorite character of the four - he's just so sweet! I found myself always looking forward to his chapters. Corinne is the only character I thought was lacking some depth. She's easy to relate to and a good friend to Ellie, but really, that's all she is. I would have liked to know some more about her as a person, seperate from Ellie.

Another thing I enjoyed in Jumping Off Swings is the depiction of different family situations. Each of the narrators has a differenty home life, but none of them have it easy. I really liked seeing how these family issues affected the characters.

Also, I love the cover of Jumping Off Swings! It portrays the atmosphere and beauty of the story perfectly. I really liked the scenes at the playground and the metaphors connected to the swings and all of that - I love when a cover has such a strong connection to the actual story.

With atmospheric writing and four distinct narrators, Jumping Off Swings tells the story of how one choice can affect each person differently. It's a beautiful portrayal of love, friendship and growing up.


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