Thursday, December 18, 2014
The Swift Boys and Me, by Kody Keplinger
Then one day, Mr. Swift gets in his car and drives away. He's left his family, without even a goodbye. Ironically, Nola saw him go, waved to him, and received a wave back, which, as she says, was more of a goodbye than the boys got.
And the Swifts fall apart. Kevin, who we find out blames himself because the last thing his father had told him to do was quit talking, goes mute. Brian tries to run the household for a while after their mother sinks into depression, but it's too much for him and in effect he runs away from home, staying first with one friend and then another. And Canaan takes up with the mean boys. Far from sticking up for Nola, he's now one of her tormentors.
Nola tries to support the boys, but succeeds only with Brian, and then only temporarily. She also tries to find their father -- mostly because she wants everything to go back to normal, which is no doubt realistic -- and actually does locate him living with another woman in the next town over. But Nola's life is changing, too. Her mom is remarrying, and the couple's plan to buy a house means Nola will have to move out of the duplex. And are the boys there for her? No, they are not.
My favorite aspect of the book is the characters. I liked Nola, the boys, her mom, the new stepdad, and Nola's other friends, Felicia and Teddy. We become disillusioned with Canaan, which I think is inevitable and probably the author's intent, not only because of how he's treating Nola, but because we come to suspect that Canaan's past bad-mouthing of Teddy was completely undeserved. In fact, now that Nola is less tied to Canaan, she is less dependent on his opinions and more able to stand up for herself.
The cover is a bit "cuter" than the novel itself, and does not portray Nola's slight overweight, which is often referred to in the story. (But as one of my editors once said, "That's marketing for you!") And it's possible that Nola understands everything just a bit too neatly at the end, although the plot threads are by no means tied up in a perfect bow. Recommended.