by Lisa Lutz
Publication Date : August 13, 2019
Synopsis From Publisher :
It starts with this simple writing prompt from Alex Witt, Stonebridge Academy's new creative writing teacher. When the students' answers raise disturbing questions of their own, Ms. Witt knows there's more going on the school than the faculty wants to see. She soon learns about The Ten--the students at the top of the school's social hierarchy--as well as their connection to something called The Darkroom.
Ms. Witt can't remain a passive observer. She finds the few girls who've started to question the school's "boys will be boys" attitude and incites a resistance that quickly becomes a movement. But just as it gains momentum, she also attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her--including what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.
Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can't find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there's Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt.
As the school's secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal--and potentially fatal--consequences for everyone involved. Lisa Lutz's blistering, timely tale shows us what can happen when silence wins out over decency for too long--and why the scariest threat of all might be the idea that sooner or later, girls will be girls.
I am a sucker for any crime fiction story which takes place in a school. Some of my favorite books are set in schools. Whether it is the implied locked door mystery or the sometimes chaotic and volatile behavior of teenagers, a book which takes place in a school is an automatic read for me. The Swallows proves that this compulsion continues to serve me well.
Whenever I read a book about a boarding school, I always wonder if I would have enjoyed attending a boarding school. The idea of being on my own at ages fifteen or sixteen seems daunting. I am sure the children who attend boarding schools are under the guidance of teachers and counselors. However not having the presence of my parents at a very impressionable age makes me uncertain of how I would have adjusted. I also assumed the children who attend boarding school are rich; able to afford frequent trips home to visit their parents.
In The Swallows my assumptions were proven wrong. One of the main characters, seventeen year old Gemma is actually an orphan who has landed at Stonebridge Academy. Reading from Gemma’s perspective was very interesting. Gemma has ways to disguise her actual circumstances in order to fit in with her more privileged school mates; being tough and aloof. I could not help feel sympathy for her. High school is hard enough but not having a home base and a support system to fall back on…I could not imagine. Readers will cheer Gemma on until the last page of the book.
Readers will have no issue connecting with the characters in The Swallows. Throughout the book, Lutz gives us glimpses into the characters with snapshots of their texts and emails. Lutz also displays posters and maps which the characters are also viewing. This allows readers to feel in sync with characters.
The story is told nine years after the events at Stonebridge Academy, with the characters reflecting on their actions. With the benefit of hindsight many of the characters now see how their actions or lack of actions may have played a part in the tragedy. Readers will get a glimpse into the characters current circumstances but I wish we could have learned more. How did the events at Stonebridge change their lives and the way they saw the world?
The Swallows is not overly gruesome or violent. Much of the violence is hinted or implied. However, the story is no less impactful. While The Swallows is a story of crime fiction, it is also a cautionary tale of what happens when people are pushed too far and take matters into their own hands.
Murder and Moore Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars