Review: The Swift Boys and Me by Kody Keplinger

Friday, August 15, 2014
Title: The Swift Boys & Me
Author: Kody Keplinger
Genre: contemporary, middle grade
Series: N/A
Pages: 272
Source: Book Expo America in consideration for a review
Rating: 4/5

Nola Sutton has been best friends and neighbors with the Swift boys for practically her whole life. There’s the youngest, Kevin, who never stops talking; the oldest, Brian, who’s always kind and calm; and then there’s Canaan, the ringleader and Nola’s best-best friend. Nola can’t imagine her life without the Swift boys — they’ll always be like this, always be friends.

But then everything changes overnight.

When the Swifts’ daddy leaves without even saying good-bye, it completely destroys the boys, and all Nola can do is watch. Kevin stops talking and Brian is never around. Even Canaan is drifting away from Nola — hanging out with the neighborhood bullies instead of her.

Nola just wants things to go back to the way they were — the way they’ve always been. She tries to pull the boys back to her, only the harder she pulls, the further away they seem. But it’s not just the Swifts whose family is changing, so is Nola’s, and she needs her best friends now more than ever. Can Nola and the Swift boys survive this summer with their friendships intact, or has everything fallen apart for good?

Nola’s struggle to save her friends, her unwavering hope, and her belief in the power of friendship make Kody Keplinger’s middle-grade debut a poignant story of loss and redemption.

First things first, thanks to the awesome Debby from Snuggly Oranges for graciously giving her won copy of this to me at the Kids/Author Carnival.

I wasn't expecting to care as much about Nola, Canaan, and all the other Swift Boys as much as I did. For someone who has never read anything by this author (don't hate me!), this was a wonderful, apt introduction to her writing. I have heard fans lament that an author so beloved in YA turned to MG for her next project, but I am grateful and eager for more -- in any genre/age range --  from the talent that is Kody Keplinger.

My sister is an elementary school teacher. A lot of her students are affected by situations like Nola's, or the Swift Boys. Seeing these less-than-rosy-eyed version of preteen life is worthwhile and worth reading, especially for kids looking to see themselves reflected in fiction. Nola goes through some tough times in this book, no doubt. Her experiences may not be universal, but they are common. If you can't see yourself in her, chances are you will recognize her in someone you know. Her struggles with friendship and family are portrayed so well, so realistically --  I defy you not to feel something during this 272-page read. Just because these characters are young doesn't mean their stories should be trivialized, and Keplinger knows it.

Unlike some MG, all the characters in the novel have some sort of depth or personal history/motivation. The preteens, the teens, the adults -- all are more than staid stereotypes. Nola's mom is more than just a mother -- she's a realized woman with a life and needs of her own. And Keplinger isn't afraid to leave some ends open, or hurts unresolved. The Swift boys may never understand why their father left and that's okay (well not okay, but in the context of storytelling). Not everything has a happy, fully resolved ending. The realism prevalent through the novel is one of its biggest selling points for me as a reader. Life is hard, and though her leads are young, Keplinger keeps her story based in the plausible.

This was my first Keplinger, but it won't be my last. She has an obvious agility for characterization, writing, and storytelling. The Swift Boys & Me was a wonderful introduction to an author who writes with clarity, authority, and emotion. Consider me a fan.


1 comment:

  1. The very crux of your writing while sounding agreeable in the beginning, did not really work perfectly with me personally after some time. Somewhere throughout the sentences you were able to make me a believer unfortunately just for a very short while. I nevertheless have a problem with your leaps in assumptions and you would do nicely to fill in those gaps. If you actually can accomplish that, I will certainly be outlet......Cccam Server


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