The Swallows, by Lisa Lutz

5 Jun
the swallows lisa lutz

Four of 5 Stars

I’m not entirely sure how to review this book. It has some weaknesses, it slogs a bit here and there, and then there is the catastrophic ending which… I seriously feel fine about. A line near the end reminds us that while we’ve been trying to get girls to “find their voices,” in this book they stop using their voices and start taking action. Which is better? Without agreeing that what the girls did was right, I can still say that I understand why they did it. I can say that I don’t feel badly for any of these fictional male characters. I can say that I’d love to see the whole thing come alive on screen. It’s a work of fiction and I stand by my enjoyment of what happened in this fictional story.

But as I sit here trying to write the review, my enthusiasm is waning. What was the point of Ms. Witt, big picture? What was the point of several of these characters? There’s a lot going on but it’s mostly smashed together and there’s no real reason for a lot of story threads. The phrase “plausible deniability” is tossed out so many times it took me right out of the story. I read an ARC so perhaps some of those instances will get trimmed out. But… where is the rest of the school in this story?? I was wondering how the boys could have so many entries in their stupid database when there seemed to be less than 20 students, and then I remembered the school population was supposed to be around 400. Where were the other 380 students? Why did the entire school faculty consist of two teachers, one coach, one librarian, one dean and one very inept counselor? The world the book creates has absolutely no one else in it even though it’s stated that there are 400 kids attending this school. And I wish the Announcements sections had ended up having some sort of meaning in the story.

Overall though, no matter how many problems there were, I really really enjoyed reading this. I loved the teenage girls, especially Gemma and Linny, and I loved when they had their army ready to go. I’m basically an old woman and I’m ready to get an axe tattooed on my wrist in solidarity. I’m ready to burn things down. If this is the future for the books women (and young women) will get to read I am looking forward to it and men better take notice. Women and girls have a new type of protagonist to think about.

My 4 stars is more like 4.5 stars. I can see this as a movie, and I’d love to see the image of a pack of teenage girls with their heads shaved carrying axes on a movie poster. I would buy that poster and hang it on the wall. I wish more work had been put into cleaning the story up, but I just can’t deny that I enjoyed almost every moment and cheered at the end while hoping for the most damage possible. That doesn’t make me a bad person, that means I was totally caught up in the characters and their mission.

Final thought: Jalapenos seem like a fine real-world solution to me.

Thank you to NetGalley for the early ARC, I enjoyed it overall more than I did The Passenger (which I loved).

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