Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: The Swallow

The Swallow
By Charis Cotter
Published 2014 by Tundra Books

Polly and Rose are lonely, though for different reasons. They never expect to find each other, but they do, discovering that their attics share a wall. But something is off, and when the girls find a gravestone with Rose's name on it, they are plunged into a mystery that they'll do anything to solve.

This was the last of our Cybils finalists to make its way to me. My library's copy was checked out when the finalists were announced, so I had to wait for it to come in. Of all the finalists, this one was probably the most unexpected - I wasn't sure what was in store for me when I started this book.

I feel mostly ambivalent about this one. I liked its structure, something I seem to be noticing more and more in my reading. The chapters are very short and are split in perspective between the two main characters, so thinks move along quickly and readers are never waiting long between the two voices. However, I didn't really like either girl - they are both rather selfish and off-putting, at least in my eyes.

The setting is a bit unusual and I'm not sure if kids will really connect with it - it's historical, which doesn't exactly fly off the shelves, and set in Canada. Additionally, it's historical in a not terribly exciting way. No major world events occur to impact the central story, so the historical setting at times feel a bit unnecessary. It might be one of those instances where the story is set in the past to escape modern technology, but this is a ghost story, after all, so I'm not sure how much sense that actually makes. I wasn't expecting the multiple mysteries that pop up and I think, aside from leading the initial quest to discovering what's unusual about the girls, the Winnie story feels a bit superfluous. I spotted the twist probably 50-60 pages before its reveal and I don't think it will be difficult for careful readers to spot either. Additionally, I felt it a bit lacking in explanation - unlike other ghost stories, I had a hard time here with the "well, ghosts exist and some people can just see them" explanation.

All this to say, it's not a terrible book, but it wasn't quite what I hoped it would be. Just a little something missing. But, if you've got young readers who've exhausted their store of Mary Downing Hahn, they'd probably enjoy this one.

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