by Julie Rieman Duck
3 Stars: A Good Read
Publication: September 1, 2012
Paperback: 224 Pages
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Smashwords
When Christian Rusch plucks Beck Ionesco from the freshman ranks for himself, she’s tempted with parties, popularity, and love. But as the free-flowing booze that soaks his world seeps into her own, Beck begins using liquid courage as a way to ignore Christian’s dark moods… and cover her anxiety about his flirtatious friend Hillman.
However, when Christian breaks up with Beck, and Hillman makes a dangerous move, no amount of alcohol can stop the pain or keep her out of trouble. And just when it seems like she’s lost everything, Beck is partnered with Jesse Leary for an art project. After spending time with him, Beck realizes it’s more than a study date… and Christian’s not happy about it. Then again, Beck’s not sure she’s happy with him, either.
But only after plowing through a bottle of wine, a wild fight, and one guardrail that becomes Christian’s last call, does Beck admit to her problem and ask for help from the one whose life secretly parallels her own.
Beck's life falls into chaos after she starts dating Christian and he introduces her to alcohol. Beck was a good girl with a true bestie and an artistic talent that promises to take her places. Her fatal flaw was lusting after Christian and seeking him out after he pays attention to her in a party. To lay it out there, she's the stupid, naive teenager that trusts the older, hot, lustful guy. Because she doesn't want to seem the innocent girl that she is, she tries to keep pace with his alcoholic, partying life and quickly grows addicted to it. One might say that she had it coming, the horrible thing that happens / almost happens to her. As she falls further into a downward spiral, she pushes away the people who really care about her and goes to the extremes to get her hands on alcohol.
Christian is popular and two years older than her, and they didn't hang out at all before the party. Even after they start dating, they spend most of their time drinking together. There isn't any explanation for why he would fall madly in love with her, as it seems he does, or why he'd do all the things he does to her. He's a closed person who seems to have little motivation for what he does and doesn't do. He seems only to live for the drink. Overall, Christian is a horrible person, and I'd love to call him a bunch of names if I only knew where to start. Jesse was by far my favorite character. He's funny, witty, and loves Beck for who she really is. My only problem is that he doesn't tell this important thing to her about himself that might have helped her relate to him better and faster. The way he doesn't talk about it makes it seem like he was hiding it from her, so I really didn't understand how chill he was about it at the end--or that we find out about it at the end in the first place.
There are a lot of holes in the structure of the story. The writing is good, but many of the threads don't connect. It feels as though the story jumps from scene to scene, and it takes a while to get into the story and understand what happens. It starts so abruptly and doesn't give you breathing space before continuing with the story. The context isn't well developed. I also believe that it could have spent a lot less time on cultivating Beck's downward spiral and focus on the period where she finally realizes what an alcohol addict she is and begins to recover. It feels as though the book is trying to tell two stories the way it is--the one where the good girl turns bad and the one where she pulls her life back together again.
I do like how alcoholism and Beck's downward spiral is portrayed. Okay, I did want to yell at Beck and pull out her hair for being the idiot that she is, driving away her true friends and worshipping alcohol as she does. That's also the strength of this story--the emotions that it evokes within the reader. I also appreciate how the story shows the repercussions of Beck's behavior and her struggles to pull herself together again. It isn't a story that I'd read again--it was so intense and disturbing--but it's the kind of story someone ought to read once.
Mature content warning - drinking, language, sex
A copy was provided by the author for review purposes.
Let’s face it, nobody likes to feel discomfort. It takes us away from what we know and are secure in, and puts us into the throes of stress, worry, concern, and angst. While some people like a little of this in their life (like extreme sports folks, insane roller-coaster junkies, and Ana Steele), others just plain avoid it. Although this is understandable when it comes to real here-and-now situations, why is it so hard when it comes to a book?Why We Shy Away From Tough SubjectsGuest Post by Julie Rieman Duck
There is something about a good read that pulls you into the story. Perhaps it is the suspension of disbelief that occurs when the characters are real and endearing. You begin to feel that you know them, their quirks, their habits, and soon enough their vices and troubles. Like a good friend, you become concerned. So, when these character friends start heading down a bad path, you know it and not matter what you do, there is nothing you can do about it. Now that’s uncomfortable.
Reading a dark story, such as SWELL, brings you to that place of discomfort because it is not only shocking what main character Beck will do for a drink, it is that this type of situation is real and has happened before (and will happen again, unfortunately).
You may have known someone like Beck growing up. A friend who you personally saw go down the tubes and hopefully come out the other side. Maybe not. This imprinted upon you great discomfort and anytime you encounter something that reminds you of it (like reading a book), you tend to shy away from the experience. I do not blame you, because nobody really wants to touch a hot iron on purpose after they’ve done it by accident.
On the other hand, reliving an experience can be cathartic. A release of guilt, anger, sadness, and inner conflict can be relieved. It helps you to get it out and, hopefully, get on with it. I think it’s akin to waiting until you’re ready to read your first boyfriend’s love notes that have been tucked safely in a shoe box for 25 years. You want to do it because you know that it will resolve issues you may have had. But boy is it uncomfortable when you take the lid off that box! Point is, even though you want to feel-good and read feel-good stories, there are occasions where going down the dark path can help you leap toward healing. Take the lid off the box. I did.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in San Clemente, California, Julie Rieman Duck wrote her way through school on an old-fashioned typewriter. It took a medical scare and the loss of her job — on the same day and within 30 minutes of each other — to finally allow her stories to free themselves and be put to paper.
There will be two winners, one for a US prize and one for an International prize
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