This book absolutely, positively tested my comfort level in reading. I don’t normally read contemporary novels and when I do, it’s usually from the young adult section. I have this thing about “leaving reality” and reading young adult still lets me *poof* out of my world.
But even though this is a YA title, Swell hit waaaaaaay too close to home for me. In so many ways, I could relate to the “mundane” world of Beck and the problems that grew out trying to become the person you think you want to be, to be with the person you want to be with. It was such a challenge to my soul and my memories of high school life to read this book. I really felt like I could have been Beck, had I just slipped down the path she took. I was so similar to Beck when I was a teenager.
I had a hard time reading Beck; I wanted to scream and throw things at her. She was selfish, stupid, immature and completely self-serving. And I think Ms. Duck completely captured an accurate teenager going through that awkward time in her life where she tries to find her place in high school. That’s probably why I didn’t like Beck – she reminded me of me back then. I was stupid like Beck. I used “liquid courage” to fit in back in my high school days. I ended up in some pretty stupid situations. And I’m extremely lucky that I survived as well as I did! I got very lucky; I have many close members of my family who are alcoholics. It would have been so easy for me to slip down that slope. That’s why I KNOW this story is accurate. This is teenage life.
The story and plot was a little slow going for the action junkie in me. But that’s the way this story should be; it is a steady decline in Beck’s life that you’re a witness to; reality.
At the time I read this I was fighting a migraine (aren’t I always?). Talk about being able to capture reality in words. All the “hangover” scenes made me feel worse. I had to put the book down and step away until I got my migraine under control. After that, no problems. Now, if I could figure a way to bill Ms. Duck for my extra pain meds (I’m sooooo kidding!!)
The setting, I believe, was highly accurate. I have not been to the exact area of Laguna Beach or Laguna Niguel that the story takes place in but I have been up to the area (I used to live in San Diego). My cousin lives in that area. It is hilly, it is beautiful, it is rich and affluent, funky, and Ms. Duck painted a great picture of the area. If you’ve never been to California you may not be able to picture the area on the beach where Beck went to drink by the train trestles, but that’s hard to explain to anyone who’s never been.
California is unique – just believe me when I say, “anything goes” there. So a toga party in high school… believable.
This is not a light read by any stretch. It has mature subject matter such as sex, rape, and of course, drinking. But as heavy as the story sounds, I will tell you that there is a reward at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the very well done ending. I was in tears for the last two chapters. It was a welcome relief.
Any book that challenges my feelings like this is a good book by me. I’m such the wordsmith, no?
My entire review appeared on my blog: My ParaHangover