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The Swallows – Lisa Lutz

The Swallows – Lisa LutzTitle: The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
Publishing Info: August 13, 2013 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: August 16, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Passenger

A new teacher at a New England prep school ignites a gender war--with deadly consequences--in a provocative novel from the bestselling author of The Passenger and the Spellman Files series.

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.

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I first found Lisa Lutz with her Spellman Files series and absolutely loved the tone, funny family, and easy mysteries. I know she’s written a few different works and not all of them share the same tone, but I think I excepted something much different from THE SWALLOWS. That being said, that’s not the cause for my rating because I’m happy to read different styles from the same authors, but I just didn’t like the way this book was put together and I don’t think that the structure did the topic as much justice as it could have.

The book is presented as a mystery/thriller, but it doesn’t really get too thrilling until the very end of the book (like the last couple chapters) so those few chapters are the reason I’m throwing a half star in there instead of just rating it two stars. The book deals largely with a secret contest and website held by the boys at the school, rating the girls on their sexual performance and having them unwittingly play a part in this school-wide “contest”. It is off-putting and gross, and yes it’s supposed to be, but I hated how the first half of this book just basically kept going over the details and adding more to the concept, leaving the justice and revenge until the end of the book. I sat their feeling incredibly disgusted and bad for all of these girls while they uncovered the secret of the contest and how terrible all of these boys were. It seemed like overkill to keep developing the concept of the contest and describing the message board when we could have spent more time developing the female characters and getting them ready for their moment of empowerment, and it really felt like a lot of time wasted by giving this contest way more attention than it deserved. It wasn’t just a big reveal or anything, the reader knows about it almost the whole time, so I wanted to see more empowerment on the female side much earlier.

There were also a lot of erroneous things in the book that didn’t really make much of a difference. The weird cottage Alex Witt stayed in didn’t really play a big role. There wasn’t really a reason why this was set in 2009 other than to look back on the occasion but there was no flash forward to 2019 or anything, so that was kind of pointless as well. Alex’s romantic involvements with various characters were irrelevant. A side character’s relationship with her mother I guess tied in at the very end and was supposed to “explain” some of her actions, but I think it was entirely unnecessary and threw in random bits of “mystery” to keep the readers wondering. Lisa Lutz is primarily a mystery/thriller writer in various tones and forms, but the beginning wasn’t much of a mystery or a thriller and read more like general fiction. The tone very much switched in the action towards the end to a chilling thriller-type feel with escalating events and some remorseless acts so it was just kind of a jumble of too many things overall.

I mostly just didn’t enjoy reading this book while I was reading it. It came together at the very end but I wished the rest of the book was like the ending. It really didn’t feel cohesive in so many ways and I just really disliked the structure.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Empowerment. I liked seeing the female characters take matters into their own hands and fighting back against the injustices throughout the book.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot movement. For a book that’s supposed to be empowering, I felt like way too much time was spent dwelling on the oppressive and bad parts, giving them too much power and attention. I wanted to see the plot move forward much sooner to get us into the more empowering moments and actually seeing these girls and women making their stand.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

I’m sure some people will enjoy it but I just was far too annoyed, frustrated, and even disgusted to think about recommending it. This one was not for me and I don’t think I’d recommend it to my friends.

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BOOKS LIKE THE SWALLOWS

             

The Passenger – Lisa Lutz

The Passenger – Lisa LutzTitle: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
Publishing Info: March 1, 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 29, 2016

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.
She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.
It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?
With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

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I’ve been a fan of Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files series since before I even started blogging (which is right around four years now… wow!) so I was really excited to see that a new book from her was coming out! I was so intrigued that THE PASSENGER was much more thriller and quite darker than the Spellman books since part of what I loved so much about the Spellmans was their quirks and sense of humor, but I had confidence in the writing that I grew to love and couldn’t wait to try out something new from her!

THE PASSENGER was certainly a wild ride. I started and finished the book in one day, finding it really hard to walk away from! It’s definitely more thriller-like and if you’ve grown accustomed to Lisa Lutz’s humor, note that this is quite the step outside of that box. I really enjoyed that though! I always find it refreshing to read two very different-feeling books from the same author and appreciate how well they can pull off two very different styles. THE PASSENGER was thrilling, dark, mysterious, and really did keep me on the edge of my seat.

The book did start off a little choppy for me. Since it’s much more fast-paced, the very beginning of the book really set the tone with short bursts of information and action. It felt a tad rushed to start off like that right of the bat but I quickly got into the rhythm of it and it ended up working out really well for the non-stop action that made up the rest of the book. I did feel like the book was missing just a little something that I can’t quite put my finger on… I think I was hoping for a more emotional connection with the main character (she tries on many different names in the book so I’ll go with Tanya for the review). There was definitely a ton going on and with being on the run, I totally understand how she ends up shutting her emotions down a bit but I did feel like I didn’t quite make that connection with her.

The publisher’s note in the beginning of the book sets up quite the expectation, commenting on an ending that readers will be buzzing about so immediately I was intrigued! THE PASSENGER sets up the story with a question right off the bat: Is Tanya somehow responsible in her husband’s death or was it just an accident? Of course, THE PASSENGER is about so much more than this incident that kicks off the story and several other questions about her popped up along the way. With all of the pieces of the puzzle that come to light and my natural affinity for trying to guess the endings of mysteries, I was wondering the whole time just what in the world was going on. The ending was very much a surprise for me, which I always appreciate! I truly did not anticipate that conclusion so that was really exciting. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it and how it really affected how I felt towards the book but it didn’t lack in surprise!! I did wish that a few more clues had been revealed slowly throughout the book. There was basically a chapter that explained everything about Tanya’s past which was helpful and did a great job at tying everything up but I also felt like readers could have been eased into a little bit more so there wasn’t so much information dropped at once. I’m glad that it was very thorough, though, and everything was clearly laid out!

THE PASSENGER was an exciting ride and I’m glad I picked this one up to be a part of it! The ending was definitely a shock and while I did wish that a few more clues had been scattered for me, I’m really glad that I hadn’t been able to guess Tanya’s secret past all along! It’s not my favorite adult thriller but I think it’s definitely worth the read if you’re looking for a good one!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

the passenger gr update

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Tanya/Amelia/Jo/Emma // Character Obsessions: Secrets, running, survival. 
Tanya certainly kept me on the edge of my seat! I didn’t quite connect with her as much as I had hoped considering she was the main character and the narrator of the story but I also understand her predicament from hiding things for so long. I think she didn’t even know herself or her own emotions anymore and it was hard for her to even fake them at this point.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Cross-country thrillers. I loved the fast-paced action in this and normally I don’t get hooked on books that take me from place to place but somehow it worked for me in THE PASSENGER!
Left Me Wanting More: Clues. I really am glad that I wasn’t able to guess anything as the book went on but I also like being just a teensy bit less in the dark. I would have loved to have pieced something more together by the end instead of a whole chapter to fill me in!

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’re a fan of thrillers, this was a fun one to read! It was so quick and I read it in a single day.

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BOOKS LIKE THE PASSENGER

(Click the cover to see my review!)

GONE GIRL    THE DEVIL YOU KNOW