Book Review: The Swallows

THE SWALLOWS | Lisa Lutz
08.13.2019 | Ballantine Books
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Alex Witt has just been appointed the new creative writing teacher at Stonebridge Academy. She starts her first class off with a simple writing prompt. What Alex isn’t expecting is to find clues to Stonebridge’s darkest secret within the answers to her prompt. It’s obvious there is something going on with the student body, but her fellow faculty members seem to either be oblivious or simply don’t care. Alex can’t shake the references to The Darkroom or her suspicions about the school’s popular crowd who dub themselves The Ten.

Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior and member of The Ten, has secretly been plotting her attack on The Darkroom and those who run it. She begins to make some unlikely allies for her secret plans and soon an all out gender war is in the works. As tensions escalate the students turn to new levels of retaliation that will leave many facing serious consequences and regrets.

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In a perfect world, they wouldn’t need to fight. That’s not the world I live in.

I absolutely adore when mystery books feature an academic setting. I don’t know what it is that draws me to them, but I am fascinated by boarding schools. Lisa Lutz certainly delivers a school steeped in secrets with Stonebridge Academy. Every student and faculty member seems to have something they want to hide. Many are plotting and several are launching personal investigations.

Leading the charge with investigating strange behavior at Stonebridge is the latest faculty member, Alex Witt. She’s on the run from her past and looking to make a fresh start. What she finds is a situation that could potentially make things worse for her. I love that Alex’s character is willing to do anything for what she believes is right even if that means jeopardizing her career. She comes across as extremely relatable and quickly becomes someone for the reader to cheer for. 

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You can keep telling girls to be polite, to keep a level head and it’ll all work out in the end. But don’t be surprised when they figure out that you’ve been feeding them lies. Don’t be alarmed when they grow tired of using their voices and playing by your rules. And don’t be shocked when they decide that if they can’t win a fair fight, they’ll just have to find another way.

While Alex wins over hearts on the faculty side of this story, Gemma took the lead for me in the student body. Just like Alex, Gemma has secrets in her past that she would rather no one finds out. She has this badass, reckless attitude, but her reasoning behind her actions always make her a compelling character. Even as things spiral out of control at Stonebridge the reader can still understand what is driving Gemma and those who stand with her takedown plans.

THE SWALLOWS is told through alternating narratives from two teachers and two students. I loved how this gave me a little bit of insight into everything that was happening at Stonebridge. It was fun seeing where the narratives overlapped and then knowing the other side of an event that was already discussed. The chapters are short and they often left me with questions that I needed answers to immediately, so I would fly through the book to get back to that character’s narrative.

In addition to a wonderful cast of characters, Lutz also provides the reader with great graphics that truly make the story better. There aren’t many of them, but when they do show up you feel compelled to study them. The blow chart was my absolute favorite! Also, once you finish the book, the cover art on the US edition will reveal it’s hidden meanings!

If you love books centered around academia and mysteries, THE SWALLOWS will be a great addition to your reading line-up!


This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository

Disclosure: Thank you to Random House for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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