Swallowing Stones

( 35 )

Overview

It begins with a free and joyful act--but from then on, Michael finds it impossible even to remember what it felt like to be free and joyful.  When he fires his new rifle into the air on his seventeenth birthday, he never imagines that the bullet will end up killing someone.  But a mile away, a man is killed by that bullet as he innocently repairs his roof.  And Michael keeps desperately silent while he watches his world crumble.

Meanwhile Jenna, ...

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Softcover New TIGHT CRISP CLEAN UNREAD COPY, NO MARKS, NO CREASES PAGES ARE VERY SLIGHTLY OFF-WHITE (1999 PRINTING)

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Swallowing Stones

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Overview

It begins with a free and joyful act--but from then on, Michael finds it impossible even to remember what it felt like to be free and joyful.  When he fires his new rifle into the air on his seventeenth birthday, he never imagines that the bullet will end up killing someone.  But a mile away, a man is killed by that bullet as he innocently repairs his roof.  And Michael keeps desperately silent while he watches his world crumble.

Meanwhile Jenna, the dead man's daughter, copes with desperation of her own.  Through her grief, she tries to understand why she no longer feels comfortable with her boyfriend and why a near stranger named Michael keeps appearing in her dreams.

Suspenseful and powerfully moving, this is the unforgettable story of an accidental crime and its haunting web of repercussions.

Dual perspectives reveal the aftermath of seventeen-year-old Michael MacKenzie's birthday celebration during which he discharges an antique Winchester rifle and unknowingly kills the father of high school classmate Jenna Ward.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The lives of four teenagers are drastically changed by a freak Fourth of July accident. "Readers will quickly become absorbed in this electrifying portrayal of fear and deception," said PW. Ages 12-up. Aug. r Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A bizarre Fourth of July accident, which leaves an innocent man dead, sets McDonald's (Comfort Creek) spiraling drama in motion, drawing together four teenagers whose lives are drastically changed by the incident. Caught in the eye of the storm are 15-year-old Jenna Ward, whose father is struck by a stray bullet, and Michael MacKenzie, the 17-year-old who unknowingly fires the fatal shot. More distanced from the action are witnesses Joe Sadowski, Michael's loyal buddy and Amy Ruggerio, a misunderstood teen with a "loose" reputation. The alternating points of view of Jenna and Michael reflect their psychological turmoil. Jenna's grief surfaces in anxiety attacks, usually occurring when she is around her boyfriend, the last person she spoke to before her father's death. Michael is racked with guilt, but admitting his involvement in the accident is as difficult as "swallowing stones." The intensity of the teens' emotions increases to a feverish pitch as the police edge closer to the truth. At a crucial moment, Amy forces Michael and Jenna to face the facts that they have tried to avoid. While the novel's sequence of events is rather farfetched, the characters' reactions are real. Readers will quickly become absorbed in this electrifying portrayal of fear and deception. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
VOYA - Joyce Sparrow Bukowski
The unexpected consequences of celebratory gunfire are the topic of this well-written novel, which explores "a world where things you never thought could happen to you did." Seventeen-year-old Michael MacKenzie fires his new rifle into the air on the Fourth of July, and the bullet unexpectedly kills Charlie Ward, who is repairing the roof of his home several blocks away from Michael's house. As police investigate the incident, Michael tries to cover up the evidence and his involvement in the killing. The stress of his circumstance affects his relationships with his friends and family, who are unaware of his dilemma. In the end, Michael plans to admit his guilt and talks with Jenna Ward, the teenage daughter of the man he killed. This novel will appeal to a broad audience, and it is a great vehicle for discussions about guns, violence, and responsibility. A good companion read for even more discussion is One-eyed Cat (Dell, 1985) by Paula Fox. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 7-UpMichael MacKenzie, 17, spends a tormented summer of guilt squeezing through the interstices of lies that he and his unsavory friend, Joe, concoct to hide the fact that a shot Michael fired from a rifle killed a man working on his roof over a mile away. In alternating chapters, Michael and the dead man's 15-year-old daughter, Jenna, creep inexorably toward their inevitable confrontation. This mesmerizing story largely derives its power from the respect McDonald demonstrates for these teens and their emotions, and her unwavering focus on their changing relationships in response to the tragedy. While on the surface the summer revolves around parties and the pool, readers are insinuated into the underlying culture that structures and controls their lives. Amy, who is scorned as a slut according to high school gossip, is revealed to be a Mary Magdalene-like character whose compassion and gentle caring contribute mightily to Michael's resolve to confess his culpability first to Jenna, then the police. Reminiscent of Michael Cadnum's work in the violent underpinnings of the plot and intensity of the characters' emotional lives, Swallowing Stones may also remind readers of Eve Bunting's Such Nice Kids (Houghton, 1990) and Robert Cormier's We All Fall Down (Delacorte, 1991). The almost magically surreal ending will leave many readers turning the page to find out what happens next.Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA
School Library Journal
When 17-year-old Michael discovers that he has accidentally killed the father of a schoolmate, he wrestles with his own guilt until he can no longer keep his terrible secret. A compassionate story focusing on both the killer and the family left to grieve the loss of a father and husband. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The best day of Michael Mackenzie's life becomes the worst when the bullet he exuberantly fires into the air during his 17th birthday party comes down a mile away and kills a man. When he hears the story on the radio, the news hits him like a lightning bolt. Numbly following the advice of his best friend, Joe, he buries the rifle and tries, without much success, to get on with life. So does the victim's 15-year-old daughter, Jenna, who had been present when the bullet struck. Switching between Michael's point-of-view and Jenna's, McDonald (Comfort Creek, 1996) sends the two teenagers dancing slowly toward each other, using mutual acquaintances, chance meetings at parties and the community pool, and glimpses at a distance. Both go through parallel phases of denial, both are tortured by remorse, exhibit behavior changes, and experience strange dreams; both eventually find ways to ease their grief and guilt. When the police close in, Joe takes the blame, giving Michael the nerve to confess. In the final chapter, McDonald shifts to present tense and brings Michael and Jenna to a cathartic meeting under a huge sycamore said in local Lenape legend to be a place of healing—an elaborate and, considering the suburban setting and familiar contemporary characters, awkward graft in this deliberately paced but deeply felt drama.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440226727
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/1999
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 272
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.24 (w) x 9.94 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce McDonald is the author of several critically acclaimed young adult and middle-grade novels, including Shades of Simon Gray, an Edgar Allan Poe Award nominee and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and Devil on My Heels, nominated for five state awards. She is also a poet and is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA in writing program at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. She lives in Forks Township, Pennsylvania, with her husband. Visit Joyce at joycemcdonald.net.
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Read an Excerpt

It was all true, then. The nightmare was real. Michael could no longer pretend, as he sometimes did, that there was a chance he hadn't fired that fatal shot. The bullet had come from somewhere in his neighborhood. The chances of someone else in such a small area shooting off a gun around noon on that same day were probably one in a million. He had spent weeks trying to get used to the idea that he had committed this hideous act. But always, somewhere, there had been hope. A bullet traveling a mile or more through the air could have come from as far away as the next town over. There had always been the outside chance that someone else had fired a gun into the air that Fourth of July afternoon. Now that chance no longer existed.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss how the accidental death of Charlie Ward may still be considered manslaughter.

2. Contrast Michael and Joe. Why does Michael maintain his friendship with Joe when everyone else has written him off? Discuss why Michael allows Joe to talk him into burying the rifle. How does Michael feel betrayed by Joe at different points in the novel?

3. Describe Amy Ruggerio’s role in the novel. How do people perceive her character? How is she hurt by these perceptions? Why does Joe smash her car? Discuss why Michael is so intrigued by Amy. Talk about Michael’s feelings when he learns that Amy had seen him with the rifle. Why has she kept this secret? How does she help Michael face the truth?

4. Both Jenna Ward and Amy Ruggerio harbor guilt for accidents they aren’t responsible for. Discuss how this guilt shapes Amy’s personality. What does Amy teach Jenna about grief? How does guilt create a bond between Jenna and her mother?

5. Discuss how the death of her father affects the relationship between Jenna and her boyfriend, Jason. Why is she so frightened by him? How does the accidental shooting influence Michael’s relationship with his girlfriend, Darcy? Why does he want her to be the one to end the relationship? Jenna wishes that relationships could be worked out like math problems, but knows there are just too many variables. Discuss the variables in the various relationships in the novel.

6. Cite evidence that Mr. MacKenzie might suspect that his son is involved in the shooting accident. Discuss why Mr. MacKenzie needs to believe that Joe is the one who fired the gun. Role-play a scene where Michael confesses the shooting to his father.

7. Why does Michael feel the need to watch Jenna Ward’s house? How might his actions be considered a form of stalking? Discuss why Michael goes to the ghost tree. How does his trip to the ghost tree take courage? Discuss the role of the ghost tree in Jenna’s healing process.

8. What are the stones that Michael MacKenzie must swallow? Discuss what stones he must swallow in the future. What lessons can teenagers learn from Michael’s unfortunate experiences?

Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 35 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(23)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2007

    BAD

    This book had a bad storyline and was not interesting. It was quite boring and did not exctie me at all. I actually looked forward to the end just so it would be over, though I must admit there were some OK parts of the book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    Awesome read

    I originally found this book on my school library's free book rack. I thouroughly enjoyed this book and have read it multiple times, of course now it's one of my top favorite books. But, after having it all to myself for a few years, I decided to donate it to the public library where I live. I smile every time I see it missing from the shelf there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Not interesting

    This book sucks

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2009

    Wow.

    So I don't read books often, except when extra credit is offered in Language class for participating in the book club. This was one of our books. i couldn't put it down. It is a great book....until the ending. That was one of the worst endings to a book i have ever read. Such a let down. If you have a mind that has to know exactly what happens. I wouldn't reccomend this book. Great book....Until the last page.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    Great Book!

    I was picking through my old english teachers¿ library of teen novels, when I came across the book Swallowing Stones. I thought wow, what a title, what in the world could swallowing stones mean? I started reading the back of the book, and I was instantly pulled into it. I was compelled to find out the meaning of the title. I wanted to read it right then.<BR/> Swallowing Stones fits into the category of a fictional mystery. I love the books that make you think about what will happen next, the ones that are suspenseful. You can¿t put them down! I would definitely recommend the book to any mystery fanatics; you won¿t be disappointed by this thrilling piece.<BR/> I¿m not an active reader, but I was surprised to find myself reading the book every night. Joyce McDonald creates a character that everyone can relate to; Michael is an average young teenager like many high school students. He is getting ready to drive, he¿s intelligent, and he¿s pretty popular. Until one day, when Michael is faced with the fact that he is a murderer. He has no idea that his foolish action on Independence day could lead to the death of an innocent person. No one knows except his best friend Joe, who witnessed the shooting. The reader wants to find out if they can pull of the secret that will scar them for life if anyone finds out about it. It makes you want to keep reading to find out.<BR/> Swallowing stones was recommended to me, and now I am recommending it to you. I encourage teens between the ages of twelve and seventeen years old who are looking for a quick interesting story to read to read Swallowing Stones. The book starts off great, and it definitely ends great. The book focuses on problems that teens deal with everyday, ranging from dating to consequences you will face because of your actions.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013

    Horrible ending

    Why does the author leave the reader hanging like that!!??

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2013

    Zoey

    Idk

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    KENS' STORY ~CHAPTER 17~

    Who keeps telling me to sto.Op?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    KEN DON'T U DARE

    Stop

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    Anonymous

    This was a great book, I would reccomend it. The storyline was great, would have prefered a better ending though.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2012

    Awsome book

    I read this in one night and i couldn't but my nook down. This book defentially has abunch of lessons in itand can teach u how to deal with tough relationships not that everyone who has read this book has , you know, shot someone

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This book was very interesting. I had to read it for english class, but I'm glad I read it. It had a lot of suspense. Which made it so you couldn't stop reading it. It also had a great moral to it. I would recommend this book to everyone especially teens that have guns and hunt a lot.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2007

    Great Book very enjoyable

    This book was very interesting. I could not put it down. I loved how it was mysterious and never knew what was going to happen next.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2007

    good book but poor ending

    Most of the book was great. It deals with several problems that teenagers can relate to such as violence, dating, and loyalty. However if you do not want to read a book that's ending took the author a few minutes to write, I do not recommend reading this book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2007

    GREAT BOOK!

    This was a really good book! im not really a reader, but i read this book and i loved it! if you like suspense and mysteries this is a great book to read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    Good until the End

    If you like cliff hangers then this is the book for you. I myself don't really like cliff hangers. So up until the last section entittled 'The Healing' I really enjoyed it. This book was indeed a page turner. I would recomend this book to teenagers who like suspence novels and to High School Teachers looking to have a new book for their class. The reading is average but it gets the point out. If i could change the ending I would add some dialouge between the two main characters so there will be atleast some drama and conflict.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2006

    GREAT BOOK

    i had to read this book for school. it was amazing & would b a book i would read for pleasure . the storyline is amazing & very elaborate .everyone who likes a good,easy to follow book should read this!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2003

    Everythings Linked

    This was a really good book. I'm reading it for the third time now. I think it shows how everything you do effects someone, and soemtimes you can't fix your mistake. Michael had just gotten his grandfather's old Winchester for his 17th birthday. It's also the forth of July. He and his best friend Joe decide to fire one shot in the air see what it feels like. One shot can't hurt anyone, right? One shot is fired in the air. Just one. Not far away Jenna's standing in her front lawn with a tuna sandwhich for her dad. He's on the roof fixing a leak her mother had put on the 'Honey Do' list. She had been shading her eyes to watch him, but a cloud passes over the sun and she dropped her hand. Her father saw her and raised his hand to wave. His arms fell limply at his sides, and his pupils dilated. He fell over and rolls of the roof to lay dead at Jenna's bare feet. Here's something I think sums up: '...Michael had been there that day. He remebered the lifgaurds... remembered one of them carrying out the limp body of the girl and laying her in the sand.... Later one of the girl's friends told the police they had been diving for stones, picking them up with their teeth, and bringing them to the surface.... A small stone had lodged in the girl's windpipe, choking her to death.... if she had only swalloweed the stone, maybe she would have lived, but she had probably panicked and inhaled it.' But did Michael swallow his stone? His mistake? Or did he panick and choke? I think it's a really good metaphor for how we deal with our mistakes. Do we swallow or choke? It's very well written. If you've ever made a mistake or unwillingly hurt someone you will enjoy this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2003

    What a great book!

    I loved the book! I could not seem to put it down! I had to read it for summer reading. It may be the best book I have read in my life.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2003

    An excellent book

    This book shows the emotional struggles of a young boy, and how he tries to cope with what he's done. He tells himself it could have been anyone; anyone could have shot a gun that day. What he knows is this; he owes it to the daughter, of the murderd father to tell her the truth, and he owes it to himself. If you thought losing your homework was bad, try being him for a day. The daughter deals with emotional struggles as well. You can see both sides of the story: One of a accidental murderer and one of a saddened young girl who has to find inner strengh to survive. the characters are believable, and when you reach the climax of the story it's your stomach that gets knoted up and your the one who starts to panic.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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