Pub. Date: August 11th 2009
Age Range: Young Adult
Source Of Copy: from the publisher - Candlewick
Ellie has sex with boys who make her feel wanted and beautiful and then never call again. Even seemingly decent Josh, a virgin, leaves right after their tryst and never speaks to her again. It turns out the condom "slipped off" (?) and she gets pregnant. The next nine months are narrated by four charaters—Ellie, Josh, and their best friends, Corinne and Caleb. Ellie's and Josh's families are filled with stock dysfunction—from Ellie's shrill, uptight mother and perfect-on-the-outside home to Josh's washed-up, hard-drinking father and hapless mother. The plot of this novel is tired, but Corinne and Caleb, at least, are mercifully convincing and thoughtful. Each, of course, comes from a stable family. Caleb's single mother is the novel's moral center. The blaring contrast between stable kids from loving families versus lost kids from dysfunctional families oversimplifies a complex subject.
Jumping Off Swings is one of the rare books that explore sensitive matters. Written in a realistic yet very vague way, the story will appeal to readers who seek for thoughtful reads.
What I love about the book is that it's very straightforward. The synopsis sounds like it'll be a long way until you reach the part when the trouble begins, actually, it comes right in the first chapter. It's told in 4 perspectives: Ellie's, Corinne's, Caleb's and Josh's, each person with very unusual family backgrounds, which, of course, will draw you to them more and more. However, the author didn't use 4 person to tell a continuing story in rotate. Everyone has their own piece to share and they don't always fit together, so you have to use your imagination for the missing parts of the story.
The special thing about Jumping Off Swings, as stated above, is that it's really realistic - the author isn't afraid to depict the situation directly; on the contrary, it's very vague as well. Normally if you read about such topics, sometimes the story will get too heavy to handle. But Jo Knowles focuses more on the emotions, drawing readers in more and more. Also, rather than telling everything about the accident, Jumping Off Swings chooses to reflect the fact that how much it affects people, those involved and those not.
All characters are interesting in their own way but the realistic one, in my opinion is Josh. His actions, his emotions, sometimes they don't make sense but the readers can still feel the connect with his character. Ellie, though being the lead female, is really hard to read. To be honest I didn't even like her until the very last chapters of the book.
A few things I don't like about Jumping Off Swings: sometimes it's too vague you forget what you're reading and the time between each large part of the book is a really long time, but seems like there has been no change in some situations that I think the characters have to take urgent action, so it's not satisfying.
All over it's a good book. Pick it up when you have a chance.