Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (August 11, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0763639494
ISBN-13: 978-0763639495

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.


I have to say up front that this is not a happily ever after book, and I'm slowly starting to realize that most books in general--excluding romance, of course--are not all going to end up that way. When it comes to facing the reality in life, and making hard decisions like choosing whether or not you want to keep your baby when you're so young, you must go through the grueling process of looking at what's led to you there and facing the truth about people you depend on. Jumping Off Swings tells a story about how one girl's decision affects the lives of the people around her. So many voices are to be heard in this book, you will not be able to ignore any. Speaking of ignorance, I noticed that it was a major theme, as well as emptiness. Ellie feels like she has no one except her best friend, Corrine to help her through this process of gradual-heartbreak and undeniable situations. Slowly, she figures out that Corrine's not the only one looking at for her, even when her family's not.

When the other characters are introduced into Ellie's story, they all have a role to play throughout her pregnancy. Once the cat comes out of the bag, no one's more shocked and affected than the father. It was healthy, I guess you could say, to read a guy's point of view when it comes to finding out that his "one-night-stand" where he lost his virginity ended up impregnating the girl with the sad, expectant eyes. Admittedly, I just wanted to punch the group of guys that all have a "set" opinion about Ellie because they've been with her. But then, I wanted to yell at Ellie for being so naive. And then...well, I blamed the parents. I don't know if it's because I'm a teenager myself but if the parents aren't there for you throughout your life and don't guide you in any way, odds are there is going to be one mistake in your life that's going to indirectly be their fault. Ever since I was little, in my head I've always built up this argument in my head that "kids take things literally when they're young, and parents have no clue." They either don't care, or can't see how their way of life is affecting their child every single day as the child is growing up. As Ellie's parents weren't there for her, but a friend's mother was.

Before I go into full-on rant mode, I want to say that Knowles did a fantastic job in gripping your attention with Jumping Off Swings. It showed that people are not perfect, and that they all have different ways of coping. This short, multi-p.o.v book was amazing empathetic, and broken up into every few months to get the true aspect of the progressing due date. There were just minor things I would have argued with that are most likely due to my biased opinions, but nothing major can turn you away from this book.

Grade: B


This finished copy was sent to me from the publisher for my uninfluenced review.