Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

When Ellie gets pregnant, it changes her life and that of three of her friends and classmates.  Coming from an outwardly perfect but very distant family, Ellie tries to find comfort and love by having sexual relationships with boys.  Josh, finding Ellie willing, loses his virginity to her and then ignores her.  When Ellie discovers she is pregnant, she turns to her best friend Corinne for advice.  Caleb, a classmate and friend of Josh’s, is furious about the way Ellie has been treated.  The four lives of these teens are now entwined in a larger way, giving readers a chance to see how they cope with an overwhelming situation and series of choices.

Knowles, author of Letters from a Dead Girl, has created a novel filled with sensitivity and grace.  Her deep exploration of the impact of an unexpected pregnancy offers insight into not only this issue but any momentous occurrence in the lives of teens.  The inner strength it takes to deal with such situations is a large focus of the novel.  Knowles’ writing is easy to read and keeps itself simple while exploring such complex subjects.

The various choices of a pregnant teen are shown not only through Ellie but through the families of all of the characters.  There are sisters who had abortions, parents who got married because of a pregnancy, and the option of adoption.  The beauty of the novel is that there is no judgment about any of the decisions made.  They simply are.

Knowles also excels at creating four distinct types of families for the teens.  Ellie’s distant aloof family, Josh’s dysfunctional one, Corinne’s loving parents, and Caleb’s nearly-perfect but embarrassing single mother.  Again, Knowles offers a banquet of diversity without judgment.

Highly recommended, this novel is deep, moving and lovely.  Appropriate for teens 14-18.

Reviewed from ARC gotten at ALA.

Also reviewed on Sharon Loves Books and Cats, Kate’s Book Blog, and The Unnamed Forest.  You can check out Jo Knowles’ blog too!