Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: August 13th, 2019
Synopsis: 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 at the school than the faculty want 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’ve enjoyed all of Lisa Lutz’s books, so when I was approved for The Swallows , I was over the moon. I easily breezed through it in two sittings and while it’s not my favorite book by her I still liked it for the most part.
While the whole “boys against girls” trope has been done many times, especially in the #MeToo” era, Lutz puts her own unique and darkly comedic spin on it. In a perverse way it’s nice seeing girls using dirty tactics.
I do think the storyline needs some tightening up though. There are some extraneous characters and scenes which bogged down the story here and there, and they could have easily been done away with. However, these didn’t slow things down too much and the last few chapters in particular are quite exciting and the haunting ending will stay with you for a long time.
Overall, The Swallows is a successful satirical look at how frequently women and girls are sexually objectified by men, both intentionally and unintentionally. While some have classified this as a YA novel because of its boarding school setting, it’s really not (although I don’t see any reason why older teens couldn’t read this). It’s a character-driven story told from the perspectives of four participants that I think will have wide appeal, and I can easily see it being adapted into a movie.