Jeni Bell's Reviews > Jumping Off Swings

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
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's review
Feb 12, 2010

it was amazing
Read in October, 2009

One “truth” is that it’s impossible to know how many people an unplanned pregnancy can affect, and all the complicated emotions that news of the pregnancy will be met with, until you’ve been there.

If you’re a teenager or a young adult, you can imagine just how difficult it might be to break the news to your parents, and the shame you might feel at the thought of telling your grandparents, or the aunt or uncle you’ve always admired, or perhaps your teacher, professor, or boss. But the reactions you can’t anticipate are the ones that knock you off your feet, continually, at a time when you’re already feeling your lowest. Maybe it’s watching your little brother cry at the thought of your baby – his niece or nephew – growing up without a father in the home, if the relationship is one that may not continue. Maybe it’s the letter you receive from a relative you admire that is meant to be supportive, but one sentence cuts you to the quick – “We all make decisions that are not in our best interest” – and you can’t quite explain why the words make you cry. Maybe it’s the best friend who pulls away at a time when you need her most, because she doesn’t understand how you could have ended up in this situation to begin with, doesn’t understand or agree with the decisions you’ll make regarding the pregnancy, is scared she won’t know how to be the friend you need, or maybe, scared of the ‘What ifs?’ that the situation has prompted her to consider (‘What if it happened to me? What would I do? How close have I come to being in the same situation?’).

In “Jumping Off Swings,” author Jo Knowles creates a very real portrayal of how an unplanned pregnancy affects not only the teenage girl and boy involved, but also their best friends, their parents, and the parent of a friend, and the reactions the pregnancy and the decisions made afterward elicit from students at their high school, a counselor, and even the nurses in the delivery room (who look at the girl with sympathy). The story is told in alternating, first-person points of view: those of Ellie and Josh, teenagers who have known each other since grade school, whose one-night stand leads to a pregnancy, and those of Caleb and Corinne, their best friends.

What makes this story so powerful is the depth to which Knowles portrays the complex reactions to the pregnancy.

Ellie’s parents, who are heartbroken, can barely look at her.

Josh’s father chides his son for not being more careful, but is relieved when he hears from the father of another boy that Ellie will be taking care of things on her own.

Caleb, who has adored Ellie from afar since they were kids, is crushed that Ellie would give herself so easily to someone who doesn’t care about her enough to want a relationship. He’s angry with his best friend, Josh, for not taking responsibility--and later, angry with himself for not helping Josh understand his rights, particularly when Josh is suffering, too.

Josh is embarrassed about the way he treated Ellie after their one-night stand, and wrestles with knowing the only chance he might have to see his child is during a stolen glance inside the nursery.

Corinne, who is beginning to develop feelings for Caleb, is irritated that Caleb would continue his friendship with Josh when Josh hasn’t stood by Ellie – and feels powerless in her own efforts to protect and comfort Ellie.

“Jumping Off Swings” is the type of novel that parents should both give their teens to read and read themselves, so that discussions about the differences between words and love, and between love and sex – and the complicated tangle of feelings that can arise from both – can take place. It is the first YA novel I’ve read that explores just how far-reaching the effects of one pregnancy can be – and is a powerful reminder that the actions we take can have consequences we can’t predict.
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message 1: by Chelsea (new) - added it

Chelsea What age do you think this would be appropriate? It seems really good but, I don't know if it's too Detailed.

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