The Dragon Whistler

The Dragon Whistler
Now available in paperback.


Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles (YA)

Last week was Banned Books Week. JUMPING OFF SWINGS (Candlewick, 2009) by Jo Knowles has been on my TBR list for a while, so during a time designated to celebrate the books some people try to keep away from readers (while raising awareness about why this is wrong), I thought it would be appropriate for this post. Primarily because the subject matter is ripe for targeting by book banners/challengers. (That said, I did not find anything online to support that it was banned or challenged... )

Yes, it's about teenage pregnancy. Yes, Josh loses his virginity with Ellie (known at school as the easy girl) who then slinks away to boast and brag to his friends. Yes, there is a trip to an abortion clinic. Yes, it is filled with things that make book banners' teeth curl and fret that teenagers will run right out and have irresponsible sex after reading it.

But books don't make kids have sex any more than watching Miley Cyrus swinging nekkid on a wrecking ball.

Like that image, I would even go so far to say that JUMPING OFF SWINGS is more likely to prevent teenage sex.

This is a story about four teenagers (told from four points of view). On the verge of adulthood, they are forced to deal with some pretty adult consequences resulting from one decision. This is a story of how easily things can change if you don't take serious stuff seriously enough.

Knowles handles this with honest realism, no preachiness, setting the consequences out in plain sight where they have to be addressed -- from the social excommunication to their parents' reactions to the impact on more than their futures, to their sense of self. These are the kind of consequences that go beyond the actual pregnancy to the things kids don't think about when they decide it's time to "go all the way."

It's difficult to talk about JUMPING OFF SWINGS without giving too much away -- Knowles says it was inspired by a girl from her own high school who went through a pregnancy, whom she spoke with later and noticed her hollowness -- something the author wanted to explore. The result is a story that hits the mark, will inspire both tears and laughter, as well as sympathy and resolve, and should leave teen readers with a sense of caution, not abandon.

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