Thursday, October 15, 2009

review: jumping off swings by jo knowles

With Ellie’s teen pregnancy, Jo Knowles tells a heartbreaking story about a girl who feels unloved by her parents and craves being touched as a result. For a few moments, Ellie is able to believe she’s beautiful and loved, but then the boy is done with her. It’s a devastating pattern. Ellie soon learns she is pregnant from her last encounter with a virgin named Josh. She tells her best friend, but doesn’t want Josh to know. It’s immediately assumed Ellie will have an abortion before anyone even notices her growing belly, but is that what Ellie really wants?

Jumping Off Swings doesn’t just give Ellie’s side, there are three other teens involved who all have very different family lives. Josh, like Ellie, is unhappy at home. His father is an alcoholic who mourns his lost rock star dreams and his mother avoids time at home. Ellie’s best friend is stable, but far too young to adequately help Ellie. So Corinne talks to Caleb who’s had a crush on Ellie for many years and is also friends with Josh. Caleb doesn’t have a relationship with his father, but his mother is always there for him. She proves to be the most help to the teens as Ellie struggles with what to do.

Some characters were more realistic than others. One of Caleb’s first full scenes has him revealing quite a bit about his feelings to his mother. Though Liz is presented as someone the girls find easy to talk to, it was a little hard to believe a teen boy divulging that much to his mom. The very different home lives of the characters serve as a nice reminder that children need more than material possessions. Ellie’s joy over Liz’s homemade bread illustrated that point well.

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