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Jumping Off Swings

Jumping Off Swings

4.1 129
by Jo Knowles

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One pregnancy. Four friends. It all adds up to a profound time of change in this poignant, sensitively written YA novel.

Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the


One pregnancy. Four friends. It all adds up to a profound time of change in this poignant, sensitively written YA novel.

Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their "one-time thing" is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Absorbing from first page to last, this sensitively written novel explores how a teenager’s crisis rocks her life as well as the lives of others. Ellie wants a boyfriend, but what she gets instead is a series of meaningless hookups, the fourth of which leaves her pregnant. Unable to go to her parents for comfort and guidance, she turns to her best friend, Corinne, and Liz, the compassionate mother of Ellie’s childhood friend, Caleb. While rumors about her condition spread, Ellie has no idea how profoundly her pregnancy and her decision about whether to have the baby affects the baby’s father, Josh, whom she has avoided ever since he abandoned her after their only sexual encounter. Meanwhile, Corinne and Caleb are drawn together by their shared concern for Ellie. Offering four equally sympathetic viewpoints, Knowles (Lessons from a Dead Girl) eloquently expresses the pain of lost innocence (“Their words made me feel beautiful. Irresistible. Even powerful for that one brief moment before it was over. But I was none of those things. I was nothing”) and the longing to feel loved. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)
VOYA - Deborah L. Dubois
Sixteen-year-old Ellie hooks up with guys hoping to feel the love that she does not get from her parents. She only feels it for a moment, and then they leave her. She thinks Josh may be different, but after they have sex, he goes back to the party and brags to his friends. Ellie's subsequent pregnancy changes her life as well as that of Josh and their best friends, Caleb and Corrine. Knowles explores the effects of Ellie's pregnancy from each character's point of view through alternately narrated chapters. The voices and reactions are honest: Josh feels shame for how he treated Ellie, but still does not talk to her. Caleb and Corrine try to support both of them, while feeling guilty for being happy with each other. Ellie is scared and feels worthless. Their peers in school treat Ellie as a slut, but Josh is hailed as a stud. Caleb's mother provides the emotional support that Ellie is missing from her parents. This powerful novel shares how four teens work through a crisis that ends in a loss of innocence for all of them. Through each one's voice, the reader sees how their family history has formed them and determined their reactions to the situation. The story tugs at the heart as the teens deal with the roller coaster of emotions that an unwanted pregnancy causes in this cautionary tale that does not preach too loudly. Reviewer: Deborah L. Dubois
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Ellie has sex with boys who make her feel wanted and beautiful and then never call again. Even seemingly decent Josh, a virgin, leaves right after their tryst and never speaks to her again. It turns out the condom "slipped off" (?) and she gets pregnant. The next nine months are narrated by four charaters—Ellie, Josh, and their best friends, Corinne and Caleb. Ellie's and Josh's families are filled with stock dysfunction—from Ellie's shrill, uptight mother and perfect-on-the-outside home to Josh's washed-up, hard-drinking father and hapless mother. The plot of this novel is tired, but Corinne and Caleb, at least, are mercifully convincing and thoughtful. Each, of course, comes from a stable family. Caleb's single mother is the novel's moral center. The blaring contrast between stable kids from loving families versus lost kids from dysfunctional families oversimplifies a complex subject. Knowles writes fluidly, and though Caleb's and Corinne's scenes shine, Ellie and Josh never engage enough to set Jumping Off Swings apart in the genre.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A heartbreakingly honest, measured work of fiction about a teen's unintended pregnancy is narrated in four voices in this latest from Knowles (Lessons from a Dead Girl, 2007). Ellie, Josh and their respective best friends Corinne and Caleb have known each other since they were young kids playing together at the park. Caleb, in fact, has nursed a quiet crush on Ellie for years and has been troubled by her worsening reputation as she ping-pongs from one guy to the next in a futile attempt to feel loved. He is both angry and hurt when Josh suddenly pursues her at a party and then casts her aside literally the minute after they have sex. With so many protagonists in the mix, it is no small feat that each character is fully developed and multidimensional-there are no villains or heroes here, only kids groping their way through a desperate situation. While the story never completely succeeds in shedding its problem-novel tone, it is nonetheless finely executed-a moving tale with a realistically unresolved ending. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)
HL570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jo Knowles is the author of the novel LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, an American Library Association Quick Pick. The recipient of the 2005 PEN Literary Award, Jo Knowles lives in Vermont.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Jumping off Swings 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 129 reviews.
SeeMichelleRead More than 1 year ago
Told alternately from the perspective of four life-long friends: Caleb, Corrine, Josh and Ellie, Jumping Off Swings is a book that deals with the consequences of teen pregnancy - and the fact that it affects the life of everyone, not just the young mother. Parents, friends, teachers, classmates, the father, mother, the child - everyone. Ellie and Corinne has been friends since elementary school but Corinne has been worried about her beautiful friend ever since she started sleeping with guys and feeling heartbroken when it didn't lead to anything long-term. Sporting a massive crush on Ellie ever since second grade, Caleb is disgusted to find out his friend Josh not only slept with Ellie at a party but then left her and bragged about it to his friends afterwards. Now all four are caught up in the aftermath of depression, anger and scorn as Ellie discovers she is pregnant at 16. This is a delicate topic all around and I felt like Jo Knowles handled it with all the acre it deserved. That said, I still wouldn't recommend it to just anyone: it was such a mature, emotional roller coaster which brought out so many feelings. It wasn't just a fluff story of a girl facing the scorn of family and friends while trying to decide what to do. There was very real character development. All four of the teens voices came across so clearly I understood the choices they made because I knew them. My only problem was I felt like every one of the teens portrayed had a terrible home life, minus one. Which of course can lead to someone making not so wise choices, but still, it seemed more than a little depressing at times. I was a little unsettled about the relationship between Ellie and her mom however. Ellie basically goes through the whole book with some serious self-esteem/self-worth issues. Coming from a family that isn't exactly the most loving or touchy-feely, she has tried to find that fulfillment in the boys she dates. Okay, I get it: teenager doesn't feel loved (especially by parents) and so turns to boys at a young age. What I have a problem with is the face that even though her mother is basically MIA from her entire life at one point she and Ellie have sort of a kodak moment which seems to ask the reader to believe that even though their relationship has been non-existent up to this point, it will be better in the future. Personally, I really don't see that happening. It wasn't even that grand of a peace offering on her mother's part in the first place and I just felt that Ellie's pain was perhaps a little too serious for her mom's 'too little, too late' gesture. That said, Jo Knowles could have just been illustrating the point that these two completely opposite people will probably struggle to connect for their entire lives. seemichelleread.blogspot.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really love this book. As a foutreen year old who knows a girl who is pregnant, it really opened my eyes to the difficulty of going through teen pregnancy. This is a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book could not put it down it did a great job explaining things and it also explained how different things affect different people in different ways again great book would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a really good book i know i loved it.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles covers a teenage pregnancy through the eyes of four characters: Ellie the would be mother, Corinne her best friend, Caleb the nice guy who's had a crush on Ellie, and Josh, the would be father. Throughout the story you go through Ellie's pregnancy and how each of these characters feel as they try to help her through her ordeal. I found it a very sombre story. Ellie just wants to feel and be loved. Although she's going about it the wrong way, as you read more into her character, you see her family isn't your typical loving one. As you figure out how her family really is, you understand and start to sympathize with her as the story progresses. I have to admit I didn't really have much patience for Ellie. I just felt like shaking my head and slapping her across the face and telling her to wake up, grow up and do the responsible thing whatever it is. On the other hand, she's extremely scared. This sort of thing is very life changing, so her behaviour is understandable. The plot flows well throughout this story, each chapter is told in each of the character's perspective so you have a glimpse of how they live and they problems and issues they face even though it's all centralized with Ellie. I can't help but think this is like one of those made for TV after school specials for teens. It sure seems that way when I was reading this book. However, it does the job of engrossing me and kept me turning the pages to read on. Most of the time you just feel so sad for Ellie and what she's going through (once your initial anger phase goes away). I changed my mind about her more than halfway through the book and realized that she indeed is a very brave person to go through her decisions regarding her baby. The only thing that irks me is Josh. I don't know how the rest of the guys feel when they're having an unexpected surprise spring on them by a girlfriend. I suppose the pessimistic side of me expects them to just take a hike and leave. Although I know most guys probably aren't that way, you just hear about the bad ones more. So I'm not sure if Josh as a character is realistic but that's just me. You would think most guys would run away at the sound of "baby" and "yours" put together. Other than that, I thought all characters had a sense of realism to them. They weren't the cookie cutter ones you read in some of those teen books where everything is perfect. They each have their issues and problems too. It makes the characters almost "three dimensional" so to speak. The ending leaves with a sombre note too, but with a sense of optimism for some of the characters. Overall a good sombre, serious read, but a satisfying one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could't put this book down. I loved how it was told from four different characters point of view. That was interesting to know how different people viewed how Ellie got pregnant. The story was so good and amazing. I cried at the end. The ending was so sad! But it made the book good. I recommend this!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book. I read it in less than a day. Now all of my friends are reading it and loving it also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book read it in one night couldn't put it down!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Idont read a lot but this is a very good book. Very detailed i can connect with each character and see everything as i am there. I will totally recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im only 13 ( not prego) haha... but i when i was reading this book i pictured myself in her place(: this book is by far the best book ive ever read in my entire life.. i love it and if your not a very good reader and it takes you forever just read this book, i finished it in 1 and a half days! It was amazing, so touching, sad, cute, enspiring all in one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great book that really just gets you into it&emotional. I couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is just. Wow. There are no words to describe how great it is...I just wish the book ended a little different..
LRand More than 1 year ago
Jo Knowles' writing is simple and inviting. Yet the exploration of themes, and emotions of each of her characters is skillfully done. The book is about connection, or disconnection in most cases, communication and lack of communication. It also explores what it is like to feel all alone, ostracized and misunderstood by society, or the peer-normal world.One night two young people are together in a car. Afterward the boy brags about the act to please his friends. The girl sinks into depression as she didn't get the loving relationship she thought she would get.Through Knowles writing, we get to see how these actions affect the two young people, their best friends and their parents. We also see the critical need for a loving adult figure in a teen's life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book, i felt like i could relate well to ellie since i got pregnant as a teen, this book made tear up several times, it is however a very short read like i feel they could have at least added an extra 50 pages to it, but i liked how it had differemt views on the situation other then just the girl who is pregnant, i thought that was pretty neat
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The moment I read this book I couldn't put it down. It was actually one of my fastest books in a long time. I liked every second of it; the different point of views, Caleb's love for Ellie turning into something for Corinne. To me it shows the way that some of us teens act today, which makes it realistic with people's words and actions. The ending wasn't truly happy, but it makes you hope that there's something good out there for Ellie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book not too long ago and it turned out to be the best book in the work i hope she write another like this i would love to read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ive only read the sample and so fa its good. I think that most teens could relate to many of these problems.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book to teens its such a great book!(:
Alex Greco More than 1 year ago
The story was predictable and a little boring but the neat thing about this book is you get to read different sides to the same story. The four main characters who tell the story are likeable and the reader can relate to each of them easily. This isn't the greatest book ever written but it is a quick read and worth having.
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KDH_Reviews More than 1 year ago
The blurb for Jumping Off Swings oversells the book, in my opinion. I expected so much more than what I got. To say it was disappointing is a bit of an understatement. There were multiple things I didn't like about this book. The characters weren't interesting. We never really get to know our characters or why they behave the way they do. I didn't connect or feel anything towards any of them. The fact that the book is so short combined with four (yes, FOUR) different points of view probably aid in the lack of character development. I feel like four POVs in such a short book spreads everything too thin, especially for the topics touched on in the books. Speaking of topics in the book, everything felt very glossed over. There were no deep, real moments. I was definitely let down. Overall, a short read that wasn't really worth the time. I don't think I can recommend Jumping Off Swings to anyone. You can read all of my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay I give the author props on the choice of work, I can honestly say there were many teen pregnancies in my high school and I'm sure they probably didn't all have the mesn girl bullies. But this book hits home to four six teen year olds who most done come from lovable households. I can understand the emotions from each character and the book serves a purpose. Each life created is worth having a chance. Options are obviously limited but the ending once again I can believe just end like that... It's like what the heck - the story just ended. Eh and it's really now worth $6.99 for around 170 pages (nook pages).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am very disappointed by the ending. But overall it was okay.