The Swallows

The Swallows

by Lisa Lutz

Hardcover

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The Swallows: A Novel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
ElleRudy 27 days ago
Right away, The Swallows hits the ground running. You're immediately brought into Stonebridge's intense ecosystem from the perspective of Alex Witt, a new teacher, who doesn't have time for teenage hierarchal nonsense. We then meet Gemma Russo, a student and rebel trying to topple the abusive status quo from the inside, not long after. Other narrators include student Norman Crowley and faculty member Finn Ford. This started off as a fun book. It followed some of the familiar beats of a private boarding school, but quickly it turns into something else entirely. We're thrown into the planning stages of a budding rebellion, with none of the unnecessary explanations of why the characters would be so outraged at the state of their school. One group of students is being despicable to another group through various acts of manipulation and fear. By the time the revolt comes to a head, I'm ready to take up arms along with them. The writing is funny and casual, even with very not-casual subjects. Lisa Lutz overlaps character perspectives sometimes and tells the interactions from multiple points of view, which I enjoyed for the most part. There were a few times I didn't realize that several chapters were all taking place simultaneously, but figured it out eventually. I got so ramped up that, especially approaching the final act, I wanted to brandish an axe and shave my head--Alas, the ending was inevitable. Not predictable, but it couldn't have ended any other way. The final paragraph was really haunting. This is one of those that's going to stay with you a long time after you've finished it.
Anonymous 6 days ago
I'd like to give this 3.5 stars. Started out great, but I got a bit lost along the way. I have read all of the author's books, but for me, it will always be about The Spellman Files. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Anonymous 6 days ago
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of The Swallows from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Wow! This was easily one of the most captivating books I have read in a while! (I actually feel like I may have even missed some clues and should read it again ASAP.) This one caught me off guard so many times I lost track of my derailments. Very unpredictable--in the most wonderful way. I loved the anger of the teenage girls, Alex Witt's desire to help them with their "Dulcinea Award" plight, all of the fleshed-out and truly believable characters, as well as the several varied points of view. What a fabulous book! I will gladly read from. this author again!!! Thank you to NetGalley and Lisa Lutz for the ARC.
SharoninAZ 7 days ago
I enjoyed every single word of The Swallows, Lisa Lutz's latest novel, and give it 5 big stars. The story concerns a teacher at a small private prep school in New England. Alex Witt takes a job she obviously doesn't want but definitely needs, teaching Creative Writing. She is the daughter of a well-known author who has obviously pulled some strings to get her the position. After finally coming to terms with the head of the school, Alex takes up residence in an uninhabitable, but very private cottage on the school grounds where she promptly finishes off half a bottle of bourbon. I loved this character immediately!! The school is a hotbed of teenage hormones, bullying, and cliques. At the top of the echelon are the Ten, a mix of girls and boys who pretty much run the school. One of the Ten is a girl named Gemma, a rebel who in time decides to put an end to a secret contest among the boys in the Ten known by the code word Dulcinea. The novel is told mostly from the perspectives of Alex and Gemma, but some chapters are from the POV of a skeevy male teacher (an unnecessary POV in my opinion) and two male members of the Ten who support Gemma in her quest to tilt at traditional windmills. There are many literary references in The Swallows, including one passage where Nietzsche is misquoted by one of the boys. However, in that vein, I'd say this novel is best summarized by Herr Nietzsche's quote, "In revenge and in love, woman is more barbarous than man." I thought Lutz's writing was crisp and the dialogue and situation timely and on point. Her character development was spectacular, and I loved both Alex and Gemma. Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing me a digital ARC in return for an honest review. I highly recommend The Swallows.
neptune75 9 days ago
I am a big fan of the Spellman books and wanted to give this one a try. I do enjoy the snarky style of writing that the author has. The theme of the book is relevant to today. I did like the idea of empowering girls to no longer be victims. The story featured a escalating war between girls and boys. in a private boarding school. The story is told in first person point of view from several different characters. I liked the aspect of hearing from several different characters like that, however, I think they sounded too similiar. I would have liked that their personalities were more distinct in their recounting. Gemma was a main ringleader among the girls but her motivation was tentative at best. Alex Witt supposedly suffered some issue at her previous school, but that was also not well enough to justify her reaction. The girls final act was a surprise as they weren't sufficiently developed enough to be lead to such a violent act. It was an interesting read that could have been developed more.
Anonymous 14 days ago
This was fun. The Swallows kept me moving right along, not willing to put it down for too long. It''s a story set in a mediocre prep school with some disturbing school traditions between the boys and the girls. The girls decide to revolt. Told in alternating narrative voices, all of whom I loved. The Swallows has dark humor driving the suspense in this tale. I highly recommend this one; it was great fun to read. Thank you to Random House and netgalley for the advanced e-copy in exchange for my honest review.
laur3296 16 days ago
Thank you to #netgalley and Random House for an ARC of this story,which did not affect my review. This book has a lot to offer: Boarding school atmosphere, which is one of my favorite settings Multiple points of view, which is my favorite story telling method It had suspense, girl power, bullying, sexual harassment, mystery, drama...all in one book. I really enjoyed the story and was drawn in. I liked the characters, especially the ones you love to hate. However, it was so over -the-top at the end that I lost a little love for the book. It felt a little spoofy. I still had strong like, but I felt ...hmm maybe a bit let down..
jnmegan 21 days ago
Starting over at a new job is difficult enough without the added stress of a questionable discharge from your past position and the knowledge that you only received this second chance due to family connections. In The Swallows, by Lisa Lutz, Alex Witt is an unconventional teacher who is far from enthusiastic when she agrees to take over the creative writing classes at Stonebridge Academy. Lutz tells the sordid story of a private school with a history rife with cover-ups and a long tradition of misconduct by both faculty and students. The novel’s rotating first-person narrators include Witt and Finn Ford, two teachers at the Academy; and Gemma and Norman, two students involved in the shattering exposure of the school’s secrets. When a database ranking the female students on their sexual prowess is discovered, a plot of revenge evolves into a full-blown gender war that ends in tragedy. The men in the story are depicted primarily as callous chauvinists or impotent followers, while the women personify forces of repressed rage and simmering resentment. Occasionally exaggerated and obvious, The Swallows nonetheless remains a timely story that reflects some current headlines in this #MeToo era. It is a tale about how social media and technology can help disseminate rumors and exacerbate prejudicial views under the protection of anonymity. Lutz explores potential consequences for those seeking to preserve misogynistic traditions when their victims are compelled to fight back as their voices remain unheard. A departure from her more light-hearted Spellman Series, this new novel will garner plenty of attention from Lutz’s fans who may (or may not be) pleased by this more serious release. Good for: Fans of Lisa Lutz (Spellman series and The Passenger); suspense tales with academic settings; strong female protagonists; contemporary themes; #MeToo topics You may like this book if you liked: The Secret History, Donna Tartt; A Separate Peace, John Knowles; Little Tales of Misogyny, Patricia Highsmith; The Secret Place, Tana French; Misogyny: the New Activism, Gail Ukockis Thanks to the author, NetGalley and Ballantine Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Renwarsreads 22 days ago
The only book I've read by Lisa Lutz is the Spellman's and this is so different from their funny family dynamic. This story drew me right in. These characters all have such strong back stories that have effected them and made them who they are today. The things that have been going on at this private school for so long are so wrong and finally some of these students are ready to make a stand! It was a really good book. It felt pretty dark and the students seemed more mature than the average high school student, but I really enjoyed this and had a hard time putting it down.
GreenStarfish 22 days ago
Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for providing me with an ARC of this novel through NetGalley. I requested this novel as a fan of Lisa Lutz. The writing style jumped out to me as familiar, but the story is a bit outside my usual fare. As a high school teacher myself, I was deeply disturbed by the story. I recognize that the story has relevance today and is even, I believe, based on several true stories. It's a sadly believable story. Boys rate girls on their sexual prowess. Girls are unaware. Girls find out. Girls seek revenge. This story pulls no punches in its depiction of a secret oral sex competition held by the boys on a boarding school campus. It is dark, gritty, and infuriating. And, as previously noted, it's highly disturbing. This is what drags the novel down for me. There were no characters I liked by the time I was done. I was left with unanswered questions about consequences. At the end of the day, it just wasn't my cup of tea. But there are many lessons to be learned from this story, especially in today's world. I thank Lisa Lutz for having the courage to write it, even if I found it hard to stomach.
CSGreedyReader 22 days ago
How you feel about this book depends on how you expect from Lisa Lutz. If you're a fan of "The Passenger" you are probably looking forward to a novel like one of those sled rides where once you push off you are flying non-stop towards the end with absolutely no chance to catch your breath until you screech to a stop and close the back cover. This is not that book. "The Swallows" is a boarding school book, where an non=traditional teacher starts at a mid-level school. She's pretty funny and builds an interesting rapport with the students. The girls discover that the boys are ranking and rating them based on their oral sex performances. It turns out to be an established, high-stakes tradition, and stopping it will not be easy or safe and when the girls get woke, trouble begins. I put this book down about three-quarters of the way through but did pick it up and finish. Some of the characters are surprising in the end, but "The Swallows" is still just okay.
brf1948 25 days ago
The Swallows: A Novel is a disturbing tale of the trials and tribulations of the students residing at an eastern prep school. Stonebridge Academy in Lowland, Vermont has all the bells and whistles required of a preparatory high school/boarding school, stately brick and climbing ivy, miles of walking paths and trees. The scholastic achievement has faltered over the years, and the majority of graduates will qualify for the same college acceptances as those students applying from a normal public high school. Problems of a sexual nature seem to have escalated over the last few years, reaching an explosive point just before Christmas break, 2009. Though many girls are included in the ranks of those abused, shame keeps them silent and isolated. It takes Ms. Witt's new role as an instructor of Creative Writing to bring a sense of unity to the girls and shine a spotlight on the systematic abuse perpetrated by a small group of upperclassmen who congregate online in the Darkroom, and keep score on the subfile Dulcinea. This is one of those novels that suck you right in and don't let go till the last page. The characters, both good and bad, are exceptional, the sense of time and place (2009, 2010) is precise and the storyline is compelling. This is a novel I am happy to recommend to friends and family. I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Lisa Lutz, and Ballantine Books. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work.
72BRUIN 27 days ago
This book was outside of my usual sphere, but an interesting, thought-provoking approach to a dark subject. Telling the tale from various points of view was an interesting approach in this fast-paced story.
RidgewayGirl 28 days ago
Tensions are high in Lisa Lutz's new novel. Alex Witt takes a job teaching creative writing at an expensive Vermont boarding school because her family's friendship with the Headmaster means her recent past won't be looked into, but finds that her secrets pale in comparison to the ones the boys are keeping. And once the girls start to figure things out, it might just take down the entire school. This is the kind of book where it's important to start reading early enough in the day that you won't end up losing a night's sleep while you race to finish it. It's a novel filled with rage that runs head first towards catastrophe. It has characters that are believable and who breathe and live and make amazingly poor choices. This novel is what would be written if Curtis Sittenfield and Gillian Flynn collaborated. It's just a lot of hard-edged fun.
Jill-Elizabeth_dot_com 28 days ago
Note to Self: Do NOT send my daughter to boarding school. This book was infuriating and intense and scary and it made me want to scream and throw it across the room and commit random acts of violence. In other words, it did exactly what it was supposed to. Lutz is a very talented and variable (in the best way) writer. From The Spellman Files to The Passenger to this one, she has demonstrated a consistent ability to dive into the heads of her characters and tell an utterly compelling story that lives and breathes in their unique voice(s), be they funny, smarmy, mysterious, horrible, or endearing. Each of her books/series feels so unique; the only unifying factor is the quality of the storytelling, which is always excellent. This time she takes on sexual politics and she does it with her usual take-no-prisoners style of blood, guts, and sarcasm. I don't always like multiple narrators, particularly when they are all unreliable, but that format worked perfectly here in a world of he-said-she-said in which there is no truth, just perspective (in all its twisted, gory, horrifying, aggravating glory). Ms. Witt is by far my favorite of the characters in this one; she's Izzy Spellman as an adult, full of just the right amount of self-awareness and ennui to provide the snarky take-no-prisoners tone that ties the kids together in all their twisted quirks and foibles. This one is dark and angry. As it should be. And it'll make you dark and angry while you read it. As it should. And it's a story that has to be told and retold and reinforced after it's been retold. Well done, Lisa Lutz - well done. My review copy was provided obligation-free by the publisher via NetGalley.
Anonymous 29 days ago
A disturbing but topical story about a progressive boarding school, where a group of female students, aided by a newly arrived teacher, band together to stop a degrading and ultimately dangerous “contest” that plagues the school. This is an engrossing, visceral book, with a storyline that’s current and relevant. That it occurs at the high school level only adds to the troubling nature of the book. I’ve read this author before (The Passenger), and enjoy her style of writing, and this book doesn’t disappoint.
JReppy 29 days ago
This was a creepy good book. The story centers on Stonebridge Academy, a private prep school in Vermont. The arrival of Alex Witt, the new English literature (and much too her chagrin, creative writing) teacher coincides with efforts by senior Gemma Russo and fellow students to expose the incredibly exploitative and abusive behavior of a select group of male students towards the female students. Ms. Witt soon discovers that something inappropriate is going on and that most of the faculty have some knowledge, except for the clueless headmaster, Gregory Stinson. She attempts to assist Gemma, but she is limited in what she can discover and she has her own unpleasant history, strange occurrences, and visits from her parents (her father is a semi-famous author and her mother is the secret behind her father's success, but they are divorced and their relationship is contentious) to contend with. I don't want to discuss the plot too much, because the fun of the book is going along with the characters as they try to gain a full understanding of what the influential boys are doing (Gemma and some of the other female students, Ms. Witt), try to secretly assist the girls (Norman and Jonah), navigate the school dynamics (everyone), and exact revenge. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Ms. Witt, Gemma Russo, Norman Crowley, and Finn Ford (another professor). The characters are creative and well-developed, all with flaws that impact the final tragic outcome. My favorite character is Linny; once you get to know her, it will not be hard to figure out why she is such an appealing character. This book is well worth the read. I received an uncorrected proof via NetGalley.
JReppy 29 days ago
This was a creepy good book. The story centers on Stonebridge Academy, a private prep school in Vermont. The arrival of Alex Witt, the new English literature (and much too her chagrin, creative writing) teacher coincides with efforts by senior Gemma Russo and fellow students to expose the incredibly exploitative and abusive behavior of a select group of male students towards the female students. Ms. Witt soon discovers that something inappropriate is going on and that most of the faculty have some knowledge, except for the clueless headmaster, Gregory Stinson. She attempts to assist Gemma, but she is limited in what she can discover and she has her own unpleasant history, strange occurrences, and visits from her parents (her father is a semi-famous author and her mother is the secret behind her father's success, but they are divorced and their relationship is contentious) to contend with. I don't want to discuss the plot too much, because the fun of the book is going along with the characters as they try to gain a full understanding of what the influential boys are doing (Gemma and some of the other female students, Ms. Witt), try to secretly assist the girls (Norman and Jonah), navigate the school dynamics (everyone), and exact revenge. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Ms. Witt, Gemma Russo, Norman Crowley, and Finn Ford (another professor). The characters are creative and well-developed, all with flaws that impact the final tragic outcome. My favorite character is Linny; once you get to know her, it will not be hard to figure out why she is such an appealing character. This book is well worth the read. I received an uncorrected proof via NetGalley.
SheTreadsSoftly 29 days ago
The Swallows by Lisa Lutz is a recommended social drama set in 2009 at a New England prep school. Alexandra Witt joins the faculty as an English teacher at Stonebridge Academy. When Alex is assigned creative writing classes, she bulks, but takes it on after getting a few concessions she wants. In an assignment she asks students to answer several simple questions and turn then in anonymously. She knows this will mean some insight into her students and she also knows she will be able to figure out who turn in the papers. The papers result in some disturbing responses and Alex is determined to figure out how deeply entrenched the "boys will be boys" attitude is, who knows about it, and how long it has been going on at the school. As she points out, "Stonebridge may look like Green Gables, but it’s the Bada Bing Club for the preppy set." Starting at a new school is never easy, but Alex seems to be facing an unknown nemesis... or two. A student, Gemma Russo, is determined to fight back against the boys, and the online Darkroom where they humiliate the girls, rate them, and score a secret competition between them. She's been planning her attack for years, but now she's gaining allies, including a first-year student named Linny, and discreet help from Alex. Gemma and her allies are planning to end the misogynistic culture prevalent at Stonebridge. This is a well written social drama that captures the long pervasive attitude that sparked the "MeToo" movement. It really isn't a mystery, as the mystery part of the drama isn't really a mystery at all. It is easy to figure out where the plot is going and what the end game will likely entail. The narrative is told through multiple points-of-view, both teachers and students. The boarding school setting and the narrative through several students point-of-view, gives The Swallows a YA feel, although perhaps targeting an older YA audience. There is a chart Alex writes, and then her mom edits, that is a wonderful addition to the book and should be shared. The main female characters are complex and well developed, however many of the male characters are more simplistic caricatures of badly-behaving males and thus less realistic. There is also a small handful of students and teachers in the novel when there are surely more teachers and students around. It was also stretching believably that the secret would be kept by so many students and that the teachers would be allowing the boys to do what they were doing. The Swallows isn't quite as good as Lutz's The Passenger, but would be better enjoyed by an older YA audience. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.
EllieBarrett 30 days ago
It took me a while to get into this book by Lisa Lutz. I loved the Passenger which kept me on the edge of my chair. This book seemed to slowly gather steam, but once it did, I could not put it down. Campus sex isn’t steamy in this book, it’s downright evil and disgusting, but no spoilers here. Ms. Lutz writes in a prolific style, and I loved the short chapters. Get yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, not mulled, and dig in to this story. Thank you to Random House Publishing and NetGalley for the perusal. I thought this book was interesting, frightening, and realistic regarding this very real subject. #metoo
Anonymous 30 days ago
I really liked that this book not only made a statement, but told a story. I liked that the book was told from different pov's that help mesh the book into cohesiveness. This boarding school is in shambles and the students must fight for their rights. I like that the teacher is a strong character and that she helps assist in righting the wrongs of the school. I would love to read more from this author and will be recommending to others.
TuggleGrassBlues 3 months ago
The Swallows Book Review | 1/2 3.5/5 Lisa Lutz (author) | Ballantine (Random House) Books The Swallows is a book about a high school prep school with a secret society, a badass teacher whose past troubles follow, and a growing group of renegade students. What could possibly go wrong? Why I was interested in this book: I read a lot of grit lit and literature with social messages. I needed something that sounded like it was a bit underground, a bit wild, a bit extreme. My assessment: Ready for a wild trip riddled with high schoolers being high schoolers, quirky faculty and a secret that could ruin the academy if exposed? I needed to read a book like this. Biting situations, academy faculty behaving almost as bad as their students, and a wee bit of sex. Ok, more than a wee bit. But it’s ok. You can handle it. This is the first book I’ve read by Lisa Lutz, and I’m intrigued to read more. Stories of the human condition: Well, this book addresses some social issues: peer pressure, rampant sexual activity amid a high school academy, elitism & privilege – for both the students and the faculty. The issues could frighten a parent, but the dark-yet-light writing makes it a page-turner. Why do kids have to grow up so quickly these days? Note: Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book through NetGalleydotcom in exchange for an honest review. I chose to read this book because I thought the blurb was intriguing. I was not disappointed. Other reviews: tugglegrassblues.wordpress.com TAGS: #TheSwallows #review-book #book review #LisaLutz #Ballentine Books #NetGalley #TuggleGrassBlues #Tuggle Grass Reviews #TuggleGrassReviews
Steve Aberle 3 months ago
I am always looking for a great novel set in academia. And The Swallows by Lisa Lutz fits the bill. The Swallows is funny, witty, and full of unpredictability, which makes it a pleasure to experience. Told by numerous narrators the book moves quickly. Alex is a newly arrived English teacher who really does not like her chosen profession. She is out of touch with her teen students buy does not seem to care all that much. We meet Gemma, an academically gifted student, who introduces Alex to the school culture, much of it abhorrent to Alex. The Swallows reminds me of why I love books set in an academic environment. Schools are in and of themselves artificial, but the people are wholly real and full of life’s surprises.
labmom55 3 months ago
4.5 stars, rounded up I was a huge fan of Lutz’s The Passenger and the entire Spellman series. While the Spellman books were all just great fun, The Passenger showed she had the chops to do an intriguing, serious mystery. With The Swallows, we get something different again. Alex Witt arrives at a New England boarding school thinking she’s going to teach English Lit, but gets handed creative writing instead. This isn't some posh school, it seems to be more half baked than serious. And what a cast of characters! We hear not only from Alex, but a variety of teachers and students. The students run the gamut of teenage personalities, but the adults (other than Alex) are off the chart weird (as you would expect of anyone teaching at a third rate boarding school). Lutz retains her wicked turn of phrase ability - “Stonebridge May look like Green Gables, but it’s the Bada Bing Club for the preppy set.” Normally this subject matter wouldn’t enthrall me. Pissy, entitled teenager boys lord it over the girls in the school. But, it just kept me engrossed. I wanted to see if/how the boys got their comeuppance. It’s sad to think that in 2009, the girls are still seen as objects, things to be manipulated. And the ending, well, I couldn’t read that ending fast enough. Wow, wow, wow. I had one minor quibble with the book. Admittedly, we only see a microcosm of the entire school population, but I can’t believe that a majority of the school officials and teachers would have been willing to turn a blind eye to the goings on. My thanks to netgalley and Random House- Ballantine for an advance copy of this book.
bookluvr35SL 3 months ago
Alex Witt joins the faculty at Stonebridge Academy, hoping to put her previous teaching job behind her. When her first creative writing assignment generates some disturbing responses from her students, Alex starts digging to get to the answers. Alex soon uncovers something called "the ten", the top ten of each classes’s social hierarchy—and their connection to something called the Darkroom. She begins to inspire the girls who’ve started to tire of the boys' attitudes and incites a resistance. But just as the movement is gaining momentum, Alex attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her—and what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place. There was lots to love about this book. I especially loved the strong female protagonist. She was quirky and authentic and didn't put up with anything. I loved how each chapter was told in turns by the different students and teachers. I loved that there were a couple of shockers in there too. I think you will really enjoy this.