Sarah's Reviews > Jumping Off Swings

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
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Nov 30, 09

Read in November, 2009

From my review site: http://yalibrariantales.blogspot.com

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles is a realistic portrayal of teen pregnancy and teen relationships that is gripping. Synopsis:

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.

Told in alternating point of views (Ellie, the pregnant teen, Josh, the boy who is the father-to-be, Corinne, the best friend, and Caleb, the boy who has a big crush on Ellie but is also Josh's best friend), Jumping Off Swings captures just how easily teens nowadays lose their innocence too quickly to the realities of the world, to peer pressure, to high school, and to the need to be loved.

I couldn't help comparing this book with the movie Juno in my mind. Where Juno was a rather quirky take on this topic, Jo Knowles takes a more somber and though I keep repeating it, realistic approach to Ellie's sex life and subsequent pregnancy. While the novel isn't constantly dark, it is a very hard reality for many people to face so the tone of the story matches the topic nature. And well, I liked the fact that it did. This is not a topic to be taken lightly by any means and I'm glad the author did not approach it this way.

I really liked the alternative viewpoints in this story. And I also like how the situation was not black and white. Josh wasn't a terrible boy by any means. Like many boys his age, he wanted sex. He even wore protection, but like life, not everything can be easy.

I also liked the contrast between Ellie's unhealthy relationships with boys to Corinne and Caleb's more slowly building friendship and interest in each other. Granted, they were forced together under a very painful situation, but they also learned something from Ellie and Josh, both positive and negative.

This is a very grey area book if that makes sense to any readers out there. This situation isn't black and white and the author doesn't attempt to make it so. The author uses language very well in this story too. You don't get the images of sunshine and kittens while reading, rather, the text is sparse and carries a lot of weight, much like the characters are carrying on their shoulders.

Friendship is a strong theme in this story, and like teen pregnancy, teen friendship is not spared. You will see the bad decisions friends make, the lengths they are willing to go for each other, and how sometimes, you just have to carry your friend with your own strength.

I haven't read Jo Knowles first book yet but I've requested it via ILL so I hope to read it soon.

(This book was provided from the publisher for the Cybils Awards.)
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