Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Swallow: A Captivating Middle Grade Read

It's 1963 Toronto, and two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives. Polly's house is bursting with people, and she feels forgotten and overlooked while her siblings (natural and adopted) get all the attention. Rose is an only child, and spends most of her time alone with only a cranky old housekeeper for company while her parents are always busy at work. The girls discover they are neighbours, and they develop an unlikely friendship. Polly is ecstatic to discover that Rose can see ghosts, and hopes to see one. But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does nobody ever talk to her, and why does she seem so ghostly? When an angry spirit appears in Rose's house seemingly bent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her family before it's too late.

As you can see, I've taken a very long hiatus from writing my blog. I've certainly read enough books over the past year, but somehow I just haven't been able to bring myself to write anything about them. Tonight when I finished The Swallow, I just knew I had to bite the bullet and write something before the moment passes.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this one. I knew there was a twist, and I admit I kept trying to guess what it was while I was reading. By about 2/3 of the way through the book I had a pretty strong suspicion I knew what was going on, but I wasn't quite sure, and I loved that about this book. I'm sure that if I was a 10-year-old I would have been completely shocked!

I loved the friendship that develops between Polly and Rose. Both girls, while really different- (Rose thinks she's so much wiser and more savvy than Polly, while Polly is a jump in with both feet kind of girl) are very much alike. Both feel invisible and lonely, and different, and it made perfect sense that they'd gravitate towards one another. I remember being their age and feeling that way, and I'm sure many readers will identify with being 12 and feeling completely wrong.

I also really liked the contrasting family dynamics. Polly's stuck in the middle of older sisters who are busy with their own lives, mischievous younger twin-brothers (whom I probably would have wanted to thump) and a baby who all seem to divert her parents' attention away from her. Rose, the only child is always alone, and she feels like a ghost in her own house. Her parents are hardly ever around, and when they are, "pass the marmalade" is about all they ever say. Moreover, there is a shroud of sadness over the house and her parents, and since nobody ever talks to her, she has no idea what to think.

The ghost story is well-crafted, and while it was enough to make me not want to put the book down, the scares are really minor. I love how the author created so many distinctive kinds of ghosts. I was especially amused by breakfast ghost who stares mournfully at whatever you're eating.

Family secrets, ghosts galore and a number of twists and turns make this a really great middle-grade read, and I find myself wishing that I knew a 10-year-old to hand this to because this is exactly who this book is written for and who will enjoy it the most!