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The Swift Boys & Me

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Nola Sutton has been best friends and neighbors with the Swift boys for practically her whole life. There’s the youngest, Kevin, who never stops talking; the oldest, Brian, who’s always kind and calm; and then there’s Canaan, the ringleader and Nola’s best-best friend. Nola can’t imagine her life without the Swift boys — they’ll always be like this, always be friends.

But then everything changes overnight.

When the Swifts’ daddy leaves without even saying good-bye, it completely destroys the boys, and all Nola can do is watch. Kevin stops talking and Brian is never around. Even Canaan is drifting away from Nola — hanging out with the neighborhood bullies instead of her.

Nola just wants things to go back to the way they were — the way they’ve always been. She tries to pull the boys back to her, only the harder she pulls, the further away they seem. But it’s not just the Swifts whose family is changing, so is Nola’s, and she needs her best friends now more than ever. Can Nola and the Swift boys survive this summer with their friendships intact, or has everything fallen apart for good?

Nola’s struggle to save her friends, her unwavering hope, and her belief in the power of friendship make Kody Keplinger’s middle-grade debut a poignant story of loss and redemption.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published May 27, 2014

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About the author

Kody Keplinger

14 books6,779 followers
I'm a 19-year-old college student and young adult author. My first book, THE DUFF, debuted on September 7, 2010. I write books for teenagers and strive to be honest and true-to-life. For more info, check out my website.
http://kodykeplinger.com

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5 stars
591 (44%)
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385 (28%)
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250 (18%)
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86 (6%)
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30 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 187 reviews
Profile Image for Abby .
141 reviews
Want to read
November 4, 2013
I am obsessed with Kody's books! But 12 years old??? :/ meh , I'm not really sure about this:( it's just that it is not like anything I have read by her and don't want to get disapointed
Profile Image for Ade.
126 reviews147 followers
Shelved as 'on-the-fence'
April 18, 2013
Meh, we'll see. The whole 12 year old thing just completely threw me off.
Profile Image for Loudmouth3.
3 reviews
Want to read
October 5, 2013
Yaaaaa 12??? Seriously questionable.... Hopefully it one of those "five years later" things... Hopefully;)
Profile Image for Shana.
32 reviews
August 5, 2016
I read this book courtesy of Netgalley and I have to say I loved it just as much as I loved Kody's other work. It was as emotional and compelling as her work about teenagers. And as an adult it brings me back to those preteen years when friendships and parents and life suddenly feels like it's taking off. Don't discredit this book just because the focus is on a 11 year old girl.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,211 reviews1,649 followers
July 28, 2016
Shortly before I read The Swift Boys & Me, I DNFed Kody Keplinger’s latest YA novel, Run. Though I liked The Swift Boys & Me enough to finish it, these combined experiences make me feel like Keplinger’s moving in a direction I may not want to follow as a reader. That said, The Swift Boys & Me is an excellent middle grade title for kids dealing with loss or friendship problems.

I admit that I struggled with this one a bit. Like Run, it’s got a southern setting and is written with some dialect, though thankfully less strong than in Run. It’s totally a personal thing, but I really do not like reading southern dialect. Add to that the younger voice, and The Swift Boys & Me was not my favorite reading experience. Also, there’s a horrible woman at my office named Nola, so that was a personal issue too.

Still I think Keplinger does a nice job with the story she’s telling, and I think kids who read it will learn some good things from it. Nola’s dealing with the loss of her best friends, the Swift boys, after their daddy leaves them unexpectedly without saying goodbye. Brian goes and stays with friends, Canaan (her super best friend) starts hanging out with the neighborhood bullies and being mean to her, and Kevin stops talking at all. The Swift Boys & Me deals with the way that grief and loss can change a person, and also just with, on a broad level, the way that interpersonal relationships change as time passes.

I hate feeling like an old geezer, but the voice was just too young for me to be really into this book. Add in some personal pet peeves and this was not my favorite Keplinger. I’m probably won’t read anything more by Keplinger unless it’s a contemporary romance, but, for those who like southern fiction, this one and Run are probably worth trying.
Profile Image for Janet Frost.
435 reviews3 followers
June 15, 2014
Oh this was a powerful read!!! I cried and cried, and had to take a break. But I couldn't stay away. I had quickly fallen in love with all these characters.
Nola has grown up next to the three Swift brothers who have been her "best-best friends" through childhood. But the boys' father, Mr. Swift, leaves the family one night with no explanations or even a good-bye,and life will never be the same. The painful process of growing up and leaving behind childhood is so poignant in this story. Nola's voice in telling her story of this life changing summer is beautiful in its heart-breaking candor.
It is going to be so hard to pick a favorite for the Newbery this year!!
Profile Image for ConfusedKyra.
36 reviews1 follower
May 24, 2020
Honestly this is one of my favorite books of all time. Not gonna lie it's totally way too easy of a read for an 8th grader but I read it every year before summertime. (It's a summer-themed book) And I realized that I hadn't read it this year yet. Also, I'm stuck at home with all my childhood books. But it's a really sweet book.
Profile Image for Liviania.
957 reviews63 followers
May 29, 2014
When I was in the third or fourth grade, we read THE CAT ATE MY GYMSUIT by Paula Danziger. I enjoyed the book, but was happy that I didn't have to worry about my parents divorcing. It seemed like such a terrible thing, especially since I didn't know anyone with divorced parents. By the time I was twelve, my parents were divorced and I lived in a new city where most of my friends had single parents for one reason or another. It was a whole new world, but one that was easier with other people who had experienced the same thing and the memory of reading that one book in school.

It is not divorce that breaks the Swift family apart. (Not initially, anyway.) It is the father leaving in the night without even a goodbye. The mother sinks into depression and the three boys react in different ways. Brian, the oldest, tries to be responsible even though it is too much to handle alone for a boy. Kevin, the youngest, goes silent. Canaan, the middle child and Nola's best friend, gets angry. The fact that their turbulence is viewed through Nola's eyes allows THE SWIFT BOYS & ME to be much lighter than it might have been through one of the boy's eyes.

Nola has lived next door to the Swift boys her entire life. This is the first summer she hasn't spent palling around with them, and it leaves her a bit adrift. I really, really loved how Kody Keplinger tackled the friendship between Nola and Canaan. I wish I'd been exposed to more stories about friendships that become toxic. Nola makes allowances for Canaan's behavior, which is completely reasonable, but she also determines where she draws the line about how mean he can be, especially if he doesn't apologize. And, as Nola ventures out on her own, she starts to discover opportunities for friendship and other connections that she was previously closed off to.

I thoroughly enjoy Keplinger's YA books, but I was worried about how her voice would work in an MG novel. He previous works are very much upper YA. THE SWIFT BOYS & ME has a cadence that's very Southern and comforting, a cross between Kathi Appelt and Joan Bauer. It keeps Keplinger's humor and directness, but softens it for the audience. (I will mention that one scene that might have encouraged my mind to leap to Appelt involves animal abuse. The animal survives without serious injury.)

I do with that the cover of THE SWIFT BOYS & ME had a chubby girl on the cover, since that is how Nola is routinely described. Based on the way different characters describe her, I assume that she isn't that chubby, but she's definitely not the skinny girl on the cover. That's sad, because I feel like Nola is the type of bigger heroine many readers are looking for - one who doesn't lose weight over the course of the novel.

THE SWIFT BOYS & ME is a summer read that tackles growing up, growing apart, and growing together with sympathy and delight. There are some dark moments, but Nola always fights her way back to the light. She's a strong little girl, and it's easy to imagine her growing up to have a wonderful life after the book ends.
Profile Image for Becky.
4,997 reviews92 followers
June 13, 2014
Having read The Swift Boys & Me, I'm not sure the book matches the cover. I think the cover is cute enough, mind you, but The Swift Boys & Me is not exactly a "cute" kind of book. For one thing, this coming-of-age novel is much more serious than you might suppose. I also don't like the fence, though I suppose it might work symbolically to show the new and uncomfortable distance between the heroine, Nola Sutton, and the three Swift brothers (Brian, Canaan, and Kevin). Still. In Nola's subdivision, there is only ONE house with a fenced in yard. All the other houses are fence-free. The children run and play WHEREVER they want, WHENEVER they want throughout the neighborhood. Teddy Ryan is the boy who lives in the fenced-in house. He is the boy in isolation, the boy with no friends.

So. The Swift Boys & Me is a coming-of-age novel. It opens with Nola witnessing something big, though she was clueless at the time. She sees Mr. Swift drive away late one night. She doesn't learn later that his driving away meant he was LEAVING the family for good. Brian, Canaan, and Kevin react to their dad leaving in different ways. Though none of the ways really includes staying friends with Nola. Kevin, the youngest, stops talking. He blames himself for the last argument. Canaan, after the first forty-eight hours or so, decides that Nola is nothing to him. That he should start hanging out with other boys his age instead. He ends up getting in with a group of boys who thinks it's fun to step on dog's tails and spray paint mailboxes with bad words. And Brian, well, he essentially runs away from home skipping around from friend-to-friend-to-friend. This will be the very first summer that Nola remembers where she is NOT friends with the Swift brothers at all. Do you see why the description "Four friends. One summer." is a bit off?!

So since Nola is NOT friends with Canaan and Kevin and Brian, how does she spend her days?! She spends them working small jobs and hanging out with other neighborhood kids. She discovers that she LIKES spending time with other kids. Even Teddy Ryan. In fact, she might like like him. She also spends her time getting ready for her mom's wedding. She also is preparing to pack up and MOVE neighborhoods.

The Swift Boys & Me is definitely a book about changing and growing up. Nola is essentially preparing to say goodbye to what was. Changing neighborhoods isn't the only change in her future. She'll be starting middle school in the fall. The fact that she is no longer speaking to the Swift brothers (with the slight exception of Kevin who sometimes still comes around though he doesn't really speak) makes the change easier to accept.
Profile Image for Online Eccentric Librarian.
2,834 reviews5 followers
March 1, 2015


More reviews at the Online Eccentric Librarian http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

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The Swift Boys & Me is a study of how grief can affect a family and the aftermath of divorce and the changes that come with remarriage. This isn't a romance nor a light frolic. Author Keplinger does a good job of exploring protagonist Nola's confusion and frustration when the boys next door when her lifelong friendship with them begins to change in ways she doesn't want.

Story: 12 year old Nola lives in a duplex in a suburb in Kentucky. In the house attached to hers, the 3 swift boys, Brian, Canaan, and Kevin live. They've grown up together, playing and exploring, creating what she thought would be a lasting friendship. But then Mr. Swift drives away one night and doesn't return. Each of the boys deal with the grief of his abandonment differently: 14 year old Brian takes responsibility for the family with grim determination and resigned acceptance, 12 year old Canaan (Nola's special friend) explodes into anger and rebels, youngest Kevin retreats into himself and refuses to talk again. Then Nola's mother and her boyfriend finalize their long term relationship and announce they are going to move Nola's family to the other side of the City, away from the Swift boys.

The boys and Nola are written very well. Keplinger grew up in Kentucky and creates a voice in each of the characters very much of that location. Admittedly, the poor language and grammar were offputting and I had to remind myself that Tom Sawyer wouldn't have been as good of a book if it was written in normal English. But at the same time, it did make the characters seem very uneducated and somewhat backwards when they thought as they talked, with all the 'would have gotten' and "ain't neither" thrown in there.

Suitable for a 12 year old audience, the book is easy to read and follow. As the boys retreat, Nola will rediscover old friends who were 'pushed out' by her reliance on the Swift boys for companionship. This includes a potential new boyfriend who has liked her a long time but always abused by middle Swift boy Canaan.

In all, a good read, well written, and with a lot of pathos for the situation of divorce and marriage.

Reviewed from an ARC.
Profile Image for Sam.
2,065 reviews32 followers
May 12, 2014
4.5

Huge thank you to Scholastic and Netgalley for this ARC!

I'm a new Kody Keplinger fan, and since I've enjoyed all of the books I've read by her, it was natural I was going to end up devouring The Swift Boys and Me. If there's one thing Keplinger does well, it's give us characters with very distinct voices and personalities, and Nola and the Swift boys follow suit.

What I loved about this story is it's one of growing pains. Nola spends a large chunk of her life next door to the Swift boys, so she knows a lot about their difficult family life and hardships, yet never judges them for it. Moreover, when when she's mad at Canaan in particular, there's a part of her that is always waffling between forgiveness and aggression, and her emotions are so perfectly written.

To be honest, I'm not sure why people are weary of Kelinger writing a middle grade novel, because I think she borrows her talents of making tough exterior characters and bringing them to a new playing field. Nola has so much growing and learning, much like Whitney in A Midsummer's Nightmare, but has the spunk of Bianca from The Duff. She's a fantastic little protagonist to follow -- she knows what she wants, and she is always seeking to the do the best or right thing. I love that about her.

I was also in love with Teddy. He was just such a great character from the start. Wasn't likeable right away, but he grows on you and experiences the same types of growing pains that Nola does. I also loved Canaan because he goes through a different kind of growing pain, and one that makes him so unlike-able at times, yet you feel for him. You feel for him from the start of the novel to the end.

Ultimately, what I loved is that The Swift Boys and Me captures growing pains with such ease, that it makes for a great read. The characters are fantastic, Nola's voice eases the reader into the complications of her life and the life of those around her, but there's always this glimmer of hope. If you love Keplinger's YA books, don't be afraid to try her first middle grade endeavour -- it's a beautiful story of friendship.
Profile Image for Viktoria Van der bilt.
262 reviews7 followers
December 16, 2016
My heart hurts a little.

I wanted a better ending - one where they're all happy - but this ending works, too. I feel like I've grown up myself just by reading this.
Profile Image for Aly ∞.
53 reviews3 followers
June 22, 2022
I read this a couple of years ago (hardcover). I'm gonna read it again.



------- (06/21/22) - ebook

Did it. Honestly, the fact that I was in grade 7 probably pushed me to remember this book after so many years. Rereading it again made me rediscover why I loved (and I still do) this book.


Is complex? No, not really. I wouldn't expect it to be complex as an action packed paranormal book.

Is it deep? Although we cover the topics of family issues, growing up, losing innocence (many definitions, but you'll understand when you've read it), coming to terms with change, and going through emotional events - It certainly will feel deep for people aged 12 and under. To adults, not so much (lacks the brashness that ya books have and the dialogue is pretty straightforward and not so word-y).

Is there a happy ever after? Ehh, kind of. Although
Profile Image for Olivia.
348 reviews
April 1, 2017
What kind of ending was that? o.O It didn't feel like the book was finished. I expected more.
Profile Image for amanda s..
2,966 reviews93 followers
November 22, 2014
3.5 stars, even while writing this review, I'm still not sure about this book.

Nola and Swift boys--Brian, Canaan and Kevin, are best friends. They literally spent their whole life together, especially Canaan. Canaan is Nola's best best friend. They both twelve years old, same school, same class. But one summer, something bad happened to the Swifts and now Nola's all alone. And to make it worse, she got to spend a whole summer fighting with Canaan, tired from saving all her working-part-time money for the circus and sitting quietly with Kevin who used to talk all the time but not anymore. She has to save this summer! But how?

I really love the idea of this book. But the thing is, I keep forgetting the fact that they're just a kid, twelve year old kid. At first I'm kinda mad at Nola because she knew the Swifts are having a hard time yet she didn't try enough to make things better. I mean, she keep convincing herself that Canaan is her best friend, yet when he's lost, she didn't really do anything but sulk and give up. She also didn't really help with Kevin, Brian, or even Mr. Swift's case. She also gave up, just like that, with the circus thingy.

But then again she's a kid too. She didn't know what to do. She's scared, her life also turns upside down along with the boys and that's a bummer. But really, I wish she could be stronger than this, stronger to fight for the boys.





I really wish Kody Keplinger write a better closure. I mean, the ending is not satisfying at all. I want to read Nola and Canaan's relationship after that, as much as I want to read them ended up together, I want to read more about Teddy, I want poor Kevin to find his voice again and I want to read a closure with Mr. Swift.

The ending seems to abrupt and again, not enjoyable. Could be better.
Profile Image for Alex.
5,001 reviews1 follower
July 20, 2014
I'll be honest: I was a bit apprehensive going into this book. I absolutely loved Kody's other books, but they were VERY "upper-end" YA. When I saw that this would be a book featuring 12 year olds, I had no idea what to expect.

I should have had more confidence in Kody, because this book was fantastic. It was simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, and I loved every minute of it.

The one thing that did confuse me, was that I honestly thought this was taking place in the 80's or maybe early 90's. The town was just so idyllic, it didn't seem like it could possibly be present-day. There was never any mention of cell phones or even computers (that I remember). They mentioned video games, but I assumed it was the regular Nintendo. Then all of a sudden, a random pop culture reference popped up that indicated this WAS modern day, but I decided to pretend like it wasn't. Otherwise, the story didn't make sense to me. (What modern-day 12 year olds are excited about a circus coming to town, or spend their days doing chores for neighbors? What 12 year old even KNOWS their neighbors anymore?)



I can't wait to see what Kody has in store for us next.
Profile Image for Bridget.
9 reviews
August 4, 2016
This book was amazing. I couldn't put it down. Although I'm probably considered a little old to be reading this type of book, but I couldn't care less. The characters, emotions, and memories were just so sentimental. I had doubts when I first saw the cover, but I underestimated this book completely. Nola is just so sweet and courageous. It nearly broke my heart the way Canaan treated her. He practically bullied her. Anyways, Nola still tried to help them even after he treated her, and that's what counts. The oldest Swift, Brian, is very kind as well. And it teared me up a bit when I saw how the family struggle effected the youngest Swift, Kevin's bubbly personality. The flashbacks also made me a little sad too. But thankfully, the book came to a bittersweet ending, and believe it or not, it made me cry. It was so great, I stayed up until 4 AM reading it. If you plan to read this novel, I warn you, do not underestimate it. Sure, it's directed more towards children than the DUFF, but it reels in your emotions. I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for sweet friendships, innocent, next-door neighbor type of books. 5 stars.
18 reviews4 followers
September 5, 2016
The Swift Boys & Me, By:Kody Keplinger is a very good book and I think that you should read it as well.It is about a girl named Nola and her three best friends that were boys,(The Swift family),they were neighbors.One day the Swifts dad left the house and the city without saying goodbye,but Nora saw him leaving thinking he was going to do a quick business.After weeks,he had still hadn't came back.The Swifts get really worried and depressed that they missed their dad so much they were so deppresed,the friendship among them with Nora started to tare apart,Nora tries to get her best friends back but doesn't know how!This has happens to me because I have had lost a best friend before and try to get them back,but all in all,this book is amazing!!!!
Profile Image for Shahanara.
37 reviews
September 3, 2016
it breaks my heart to say this but for the very first time im disappointed in kody's book :( :( i read it just because i love kody's writing even if its a tween book. however, this book didnt do it for me especially the decisions in the end of story was too unlike a tween...1.5 rating
Profile Image for Juli.
97 reviews2 followers
May 3, 2014
I enjoyed The Swift Boys & Me by Kody Keplinger. I think 3rd-5th graders will enjoy this book. Nola is a great friend to the Swift boys and wants to see everything come back to normal after the boys' dad leaves.
Copy provided by NetGalley.
Profile Image for Anna.
4 reviews
February 8, 2017
Okay, so this is a really good book. I know a lot of people are unsure about the characters being twelve, but it's actually really good. I say you should read it, even though the characters are only twelve, it's insanely good.
Profile Image for Caylee.
67 reviews1 follower
November 25, 2016
A lot of the comments mock it for being for 12 year olds but I think it's a good book about growing up that anyone going through change or loss should read.
441 reviews59 followers
February 9, 2022
I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought that I would! I may even go as far as to say that I loved this book. This book has been on my radar for a while, but I never picked it up because there were other books that I was more interested. I am so happy that I did finally get around to reading this novel! I really liked all of the characters. I thought that Nola was interesting and very relatable. The author didn't try to make Nola too mature for her age, but at the same time, Nola didn't feel too young either. I thought that all of the friendships in this novel just made so much sense, and I enjoyed getting to read about they changed. I also loved the new relationships that formed as a cause of the pressure that the world was putting on the characters. There was never really a time that readers got a significant view into the lives and thoughts of side characters because this book was written from Nola's point of view. It's not that Nola didn't care about other people, but, given her age, she wasn't always the most perceptive. There was a very subtle romance storyline in the novel, but it was cute and didn't detract from the main themes. I loved the plot of this novel! I thought that the whole idea was just really interesting, and I liked the way that the author developed the story. I can't say that there were really any twists that blew me away, but I wasn't bothered by this. There were one or two moments where I thought that the author was going in a certain direction, and she actually switched it up. Normally, I don't love middle-grade novels because I feel a certain disconnect from them, and they just don't do much for me. However, this novel was kind of heartbreaking. The ending in particular just really got me. This book symbolizes a loss of childhood that just really tugged at my heart. I really liked how the author ended with a certain level of hope, but it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, and it wasn't all unrealistic. There was no cursing in this book, and there was no sexual content. There was some violence, but it was a level that's appropriate for the age category it is classified as. This book fits best into the middle-grade category, but I think that people of many ages could enjoy this book. As I said earlier, I'm a person who hasn't liked a lot of middle grade lately, but I really enjoyed this novel. I highly recommend this book! I think that it is a fast, touching read that will appeal to a wide variety of people. I will be picking up more from this author in the future whether it be more middle grade or some of the young adult pieces that she has written.
Profile Image for Ivonne.
2 reviews
August 20, 2020
This summer was the first time I read the fiction novel, The Swift Boys & Me by Kody Keplinger. This fiction story is about a girl named Nola and three boys who are her neighbors. Canaan, her best friend, Brian, and Kevin. They are on summer break when the Swift boys dad leaves them without saying anything. The boys and Nola drift and she has to deal with changes and her best friend acting up. I found this book in my family book collection. I was just looking for a book for summer reading and this book looked appealing and somewhat relatable.
A personal connection I made to this book is my dad leaving me
too. My dad didn’t leave without saying goodbye like Mr.Swift, but I can still relate to the pain and the way Canaan reacted in a sense. Canaan was pushing everyone away including Nola. He started hanging out with the bullies and being a jerk. I can relate to the part of pushing everyone away. I remember when my dad left, I distanced myself from a lot of people, became quieter, and just kept to myself for a period of time. Depending on the person, the reaction will be different. But the similarity between Canaan and I is we were both in pain. It’s not an easy thing to go through, so lashing out and different behavior can be an outcome.
Profile Image for Heather Brown.
655 reviews11 followers
January 12, 2018
Aimed at 4th-8th grade kids, The Swift Boys & Me tells the story of Nola Sutton and how her life changes almost as much as her best friend's does when her friend's father leaves the family. Brian, Canaan, and Kevin Swift's father leaves without saying goodbye, ripping their family apart. Nola and Canaan, once inseparable, barely see each other. Brian struggles to take care of his mother and brothers. Garrulous Kevin is strangely silent. Nola does her best to help the boys and fix everything for them, but it takes a huge toll on her as well. Nola has to learn how to move forward just as much as the Swift boys do.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,215 reviews8 followers
November 25, 2020
The Swift Boys and Me strikes a nice balance between a lightweight friendship story and more serious issues of bullying and family problems. Nola is a likable narrator, and I didn't mind her grammar errors (designed to simulate an accent, I suppose) too much--their usage was lighter and more consistent than in this author's more recent Lila and Hadley.

Only two complaints:
1. I didn't like the way Teddy's bullying of Nola was forgiven so easily once it was revealed that he did it because he liked her.
2. The cover--Nola being chubby is mentioned many times throughout the book, so I don't like that a thin model was chosen to portray her.
5 reviews
June 6, 2018
The Swift Boys and Me by author, Kody Keplinger, is an outstanding book. It is the perfect book to read if you enjoy middle school drama & real life problems such as divorce, though, some events are quite a bit exaggerated and extremely fictional. For instance, a little, innocent, immature girl's suspicion of where a man that just left his home and family is will be most likely incorrect, but, in the book, it was not. She was able to track down a man all by herself. Which even though is very unrealistic, it is very entertaining. Overall, the book is very amazing and a must-read for preteens.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
30 reviews
September 29, 2018
The book " The Swift Boys and Me " was a good book and I really liked how it was part mystery since one of my favorite genre's of books are mystery. I love how Nola ( The main character ) faces many things during the summer which is the season the book takes place in. The Swift boy's dad has seemed to have disappeared. The Swift boys change their actions which make Nola want to find out where Mr.Swift went, even without saying goodbye! She looks for him, do you think that he will return and Nola will find him? Or will he stay where he is and never come back?
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