Thursday, December 06, 2012

Review: Swell by Julie Rieman Duck

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Julie Rieman Duck
Publication date: September 1st 2012


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.

*A copy was provided by BB Book Promotions for review purposes* 
I enjoy contemporaries for many reasons, one of them being the emotional output that you get from them, another is the rawness of their subjects. Swell, both emotional and raw, is a truly great read about teen alcoholism. The topic itself is gritty and unforgiving, and the characters that we meet make us not only sympathize, but understand how something like this happens. And it happens, unfortunately, much more than we might realize.

Don’t think this to be a slow spiral into alcoholism, though. The book begins with Beck being introduced to this new liquid courage, and the story takes place during the heart of her addiction. While some may find it a quick downfall into alcoholism, having seen it happen to friends in high school, I know just how quick this habit can become more than. At first it begins with wanting to fit in, or conform to your peers’ ways of life, then you start having a drink even when you’re alone, which, soon enough, leads to panic and desperation when you run out. The novel also spans quite a few days and weeks in mere chapters which makes it seem like no time has passed, when, in reality, finally finding something that makes you socially accepted, made me understand why the addiction came on strong. Who would want to go back to the way it was?

The blame for this addiction lies mostly on Christian. Christian is good looking and popular, he’s interested in Beck–a freshman–, but he’s also interested in his drink. Being influenced by a cute guy is no uncommon phenomenon. What’s funny in this case is that, even though I recognized his bad influence from the start, and I should have wanted him to piss off, I still liked him. It’s kind of like the author gets her reader influenced alongside her protagonist. I got Beck; I knew why she loved the idea of Chris, and the social privileges that came with, but drinking aside, I never saw Christian as an enigma. He was a jerk at times, sure, but I always felt he had his reasons–his own darkness that influenced him as well.

When it comes between Christian and Jesse, however, there is no contest. A genuinely good and pure hearted soul, Jesse is a breath of fresh air in this novel. A respite from the otherwise agitated tone of the book. Although it is, technically, a love triangle, I wouldn’t even classify it as a “triangle”. In this case, I understood her attraction to both guys. I even saw it more as a confused teenager than any type of triangle. We all experienced teenage hormones, and most know what it is like to be attracted to more than one person. This is not a improbable concept, especially from an emotionally perturbed teenage girl who’s going through way more than anyone should.

Swell is not sugar coated, it’s not pretty or fluffy, it’s a surprisingly profound read dealing with strong emotional events. Because of which I would recommend this for more mature readers. Sex, drugs, and, of course, alcohol, all make grand appearances. If this is the type of raw contemporary you enjoy, I would hand it to you enthusiastically! 

4 Hot Espressos
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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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17 Responses to “Review: Swell by Julie Rieman Duck”

  1. Amy

    I really want to read this one now after reading your review!! I love raw and emotional books dealing with issues like this. I think the past week almost all the books I have reviewed have been some type of issue book or deep contemporary. Fabulous review. I need this book.

  2. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    Yay! So happy that you enjoyed this one so much, for some reason I had a feeling we would differ in opinion on this one, I’m happy we don’t because now I don’t have to hurt you. I knew so many girls like her in high school too, it’s really sad. I didn’t feel Christian the way that you did, I think because I felt that he was spineless and was controlled by everyone around him, it was so not attractive. Jessie!!!

  3. Shirley

    This sounds REALLY deep! I don’t know if I can stomach any more raw and emotional reads ;/ So glad you enjoyed it Giselle 🙂 I might pick it up sometime in the future 🙂

  4. Nick

    Wow! I didn’t think this book would be this profound, but I’m glad to hear that it’s not only fluff. YA needs more books that deal with real life issues and this seems so good. Plus, it sounds like the author did a fabulous job at tackling the alcoholism theme. I’m probably going to check out Swell some time but after reading Flawed by Kate Avelynn, I’ve decided to stay away from dark contemporaries for a while. I don’t want to ruin the holiday season with my crying! 😛
    Lovely review as always, Giselle! 🙂

  5. Christina

    Oh yay! Your review cleared up some confusion I had with Jenni’s. lol. She was like girl starts dating popular guy. ALCOHOLISM. And I was like “wait, what happened?” Anyway, you both liked this a lot, so I will add it to my list and maybe someday I will cave and buy and ebook.

  6. Alexa

    This sounds VERY intense, but in a good way! I certainly believe that this is an issue I’ve not encountered in my reading before, which is why I’d definitely want to check it out.

  7. Candace

    You said things SO well Giselle! So many people are saying they hated Christian, but I’m with you, I liked him, or I felt for him I guess. He is to blame for Beck’s fall and I never wanted them as an item exactly, but I ‘got’ it. LOVED Jesse! Yes, awesome review!
    Thanks so much for hosting a tour stop and for your fantastic review!

  8. Sam

    I don’t think this is a book I could relate to, but it does sound as though the author has tackled a serious issue with maturity. I’m glad this proved to be a worthwhile contemporary read for you. Brilliant review, Giselle!

  9. Renae

    I totally agree with you on the emotional connection and depth that can almost always be found in contemporary/realistic fiction. I think that’s a big reason why it’s become my favorite genre so quickly. I love that.

    I hadn’t thought to look more into what Swell was, since based on the cover I assumed it was a paranormal novel. Glad you chose to read it and get it out on my radar!

  10. kelseysclutteredbookshelf

    Added it to Goodreads, I like that it doesn’t sugar coat the message too so maybe it can help people a bit, I knew someone who was an alcoholic and it’s never an easy thing to be around. Thanks for your review!

  11. Jesse Burgoyne

    This sounds like a very intriguing read. A subject as real and harmful as teenage alcoholism needs to be addressed in a real and truthful way. I’m glad the author did that. I haven’t heard of Swell before, but I’m definitely going to look more into it!

    Jesse @ Pretty In Fiction