I am always up for some awesome feminist fiction, whether it’s historical, fantasy, or, in this case, thriller. The Swallows was my first experience reading Lisa Lutz, and I loved it. But it also made me mad. In a good way. And, if you’ve ever felt rage at the phrase “boys will be boys”, it’ll probably make you mad, too.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want?
It starts with this simple writing prompt from Alex Witt, Stonebridge Academy’s new creative writing teacher. When the students’ answers raise disturbing questions of their own, Ms. Witt knows there’s more going on the school than the faculty wants to see. She soon learns about The Ten–the students at the top of the school’s social hierarchy–as well as their connection to something called The Darkroom.
Ms. Witt can’t remain a passive observer. She finds the few girls who’ve started to question the school’s “boys will be boys” attitude and incites a resistance that quickly becomes a movement. But just as it gains momentum, she also attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her–including what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.
Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can’t find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there’s Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt.
As the school’s secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal–and potentially fatal–consequences for everyone involved. Lisa Lutz’s blistering, timely tale shows us what can happen when silence wins out over decency for too long–and why the scariest threat of all might be the idea that sooner or later, girls will be girls.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I picked up The Swallows. The synopsis kind of gave me If We Were Villains vibes, which I just couldn’t resist. And it was worth it. Because I loved this book. I think the story was just so relevant – I was actually describing it to a coworker the other day and she asked if it was a true story, because we could both imagine this actually happening (unfortunately). It is a pretty extreme example of letting boys and men get away with insane and totally unacceptable behavior, because “boys will be boys”. But I think we’ve all seen this to some degree. And I got so much satisfaction from seeing the girls fight back. If only I’d had the guts to take an axe (literal or metaphoric, either one works) to those expectations as a teenager.
The characters themselves were so good. Every single one of them felt human and flawed, but there was also a distinct line between who was on the right side in this issue, and who wasn’t. Because there is no gray area when it comes to sexual abuse. There just isn’t. And I think The Swallows illustrates that perfectly. I so badly wanted to punch a few of these idiots in the face
This was a really great thriller, and I loved every second of it. I seriously could not put it down. I thought the story was brilliant, but also extremely well-crafted. One note I made while reading is that Lisa Lutz really trusts her readers, which I appreciated so much. I think it’s rare for an author of a thriller to let her readers follow the mystery and come to their own conclusions without overly explaining anything, and I really liked that. It made for a more interesting story, and a better reading experience.
★★★★★ – I loved The Swallows. I think it’s a really great thriller with an important message. It was not an easy read by any means, and it will probably make you angry, but it was definitely worth it. I would highly recommend it!
The Swallows will be available in bookstores August 13. You can preorder a copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The Swallows as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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