Review: Swell by Julie Rieman Duck

Swell by Julie Rieman Duck
Published August 31st, 2012
Source: Author

When Christian Rusch plucks Beck Ionesco from the freshman ranks for himself, she’s tempted with parties, popularity, and love. But as the free-flowing booze that soaks his world seeps into her own, Beck begins using liquid courage as a way to ignore Christian’s dark moods… and cover her anxiety about his flirtatious friend Hillman.However, when Christian breaks up with Beck, and Hillman makes a dangerous move, no amount of alcohol can stop the pain or keep her out of trouble. And just when it seems like she’s lost everything, Beck is partnered with Jesse Leary for an art project. After spending time with him, Beck realizes it’s more than a study date… and Christian’s not happy about it. Then again, Beck’s not sure she’s happy with him, either.But only after plowing through a bottle of wine, a wild fight, and one guardrail that becomes Christian’s last call, does Beck admit to her problem and ask for help from the one whose life secretly parallels her own.

Swell is an emotional rollercoaster as we ride with Rebecca on her downworld spiral to alcoholism. We watch as she alienates those who cares about her just to get into the ‘in crowd’ and Christians arms. We watch as she uses liquid courage to become someone she’s not. And we watch as everything starts to fall apart.

In the first half or so of the book the beginning of each chapter has a little bit of foreshadowing of what’s going to happen, that’s going to be one turning point in her life. Something absolutely horrific. As we read it’s pretty clear where things are going, but it’s just a teaser because we don’t know how far it will go and who may come in to save the day, if anyone. Unfortunately even when horrible things happen it’s not enough to break the cycle of drinking. And Rebecca still does incredibly awful things to get her hands on alcohol, any kind she can find.

Once school starts she meets Jesse, who is her art partner. Jesse has this light and funny personality and she finds him to be a person who can help take her mind off of everything else. And in the end it’s Jesse who helps her find the pieces of her life that she lost.

A lot of horrible things happen in this book and some of you may think that it’s not real, teens don’t go THAT far. But they do. And this book is a real look at it. Yes, there’s drinking and there’s sex, but that’s what kids do. And this is not a look at it with all wonderful things. No, this shows us the awful things that can happen without us even realizing it. It’s not like people become alcoholics on purpose. They start out partying and drinking on weekends and the next thing you know they are hiding little bottles everywhere. Liquid courage for the smallest things like dinner with the family.

The thing I like is that we see the repercussions of Rebecca’s actions. We watch as she finds her way and regains her footing and it shows us that there is hope and there is help.

I suggest this for mature readers because of the content, but honestly I think about any teenager in high school has seen things like this and it won’t be anything new to them (the drinking, language and sex).

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.

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  1. I am so excited to read this one and so happy that you loved it and felt it was realistic. Sometimes these tough subjects can be handled wrong and the characters don’t’ feel and I am glad that wasn’t the case for you with Swell.

    Great review Candace!!

  2. This sounds like it’s going to be an incredibly challenging read, one of those that I might have to get up and walk away from to take a few minutes to shore up my courage before I go back for more! Still, the emotionally challenging books are always the ones that stick with me the longest, so I’m looking forward to giving this book a try! Fabulous review Candace!

  3. I love when books affect my emotions like that. I haven’t taken the plunge and started reading Contemporary but I have a couple books in mind that I would first give a try if I decide to just do it.

  4. Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Candace!(: I’m around half-way through it and I’m loving the realistic quality about it too. It’s written in a very gripping style too and the fact that you loved this one bodes well for me too. Fantastic review, dear! 😀

  5. Oh, wow. I don’t think I can read this one. Super-dark contemporaries are usually not my thing. Maybe because I teach high schoolers and I see enough dark… Still, sounds like a well-written story! Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Now this one sounds both interesting and cliched. I have honestly seen this plot line done before (and WHY is it ALWAYS an art project?!) but I am willing to give it a try! I will admit: I hear of my friends drinking and having sex all the time and yes, no one becomes an alcholic on purpose. I might be more critical of this book if it’s not as realistic as I wish it were. Great review!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I’ve been keeping my eye on this book for a long time now and your review made me eager to read it. Thank you, hope you have a lovely day :)


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