Thursday, 10 November 2011

Review: Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles

Jumping off Swings
Jo Knowles
Candlewick Press
Publication date: 16th March 2010
My rating: 3 out of 5

Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their "one-time thing" is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life -- and the realities of leaving innocence behind.

Jumping off swings very subtly and quietly tells of the impact that an unplanned teenage pregnancy has on the 4 main characters and their respective families.

Told from the alternative view points of the four main characters (Ellie the teen who gets pregnant, her best friend Corrine, Josh the teen who gets Ellie pregnant and his best friend Caleb) it also gives an insight into huge differences in the characters families and the effect their upbringing has had on each of them.

Knowles very successfully gets the message about the heartbreaking effect of an unplanned pregnancy without at any point being judgemental or condescending. I think this is the perfect book for teenagers and actually led me to discussing teenage pregnancy with my own daughter.

Ellie comes from what looks like on the outside to be a perfect family but her mother demands perfection- her house is spotless and she comes across as being cold never having shown any real affection to Ellie. Consequently, Ellie goes elsewhere for that little moment of love from various boys including Josh.

Josh is embarrassed about how he treated Ellie afterwards but he's not a bad kid just a bit immature and his subsequent burying his head in the sand reaction to the pregnancy is partly explained by his pretty awful home life. I thought Knowles did a really good job of ensuring the reader doesn't hate Josh personally, I felt quite sorry for him.

Best friends to the two main characters Corrine who comes from a very loving home and Caleb who has a very cool understanding single parent mother are there to support Josh and Ellie separately whilst they work out their own feelings for each other.

Overall Jumping off Swings was quite sombre in tone with a touch of heart breaking reality of what dealing with teenage pregnancy can be like. It's not a cutesy white wash of a story, it's never condescending and it's not sensational or exciting, I think it's certainly more geared towards the teenage market. An interesting quick read.


  1. Oh this sounds like a good YA book for teens. I hadn't heard of it before.

  2. Thanks Melissa, it's definetly perfect for teens, I think the cover got me to pick it up!


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