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Nate Powell – Swallow Me Whole

January 28, 2014

3. Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell (2008)

Length: 216 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Started/Finished: 11 January 2014

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Random browsing.

High school is scary
enough without having bad
hallucinations.

Summary: Ruth and Perry are stepsiblings, but they share a distinct bond: both of them struggle with seeing and hearing things that others can’t. He sees a small wizard who forces him to draw; she sees bugs where there aren’t, and hears the voices of the animals she collects. Adolescence is hard enough, with its struggles with authority, issues with fitting in, tempestuous relationships, and a complicated home life, but when you factor in mental illness, it starts to border on too much to cope with.

Review: This is a dark, dark book, one that was not easy to read. I mean that both in a literal and a metaphorical sense. It is graphically very dark, lots of shadows and black spaces and sketchy lines, oftentimes overwhelming the characters. The text is also typically very small and scratchy, enough so that it is frequently difficult if not impossible to read. It’s clearly a stylistic choice, and it goes along with the tone of the story, but it does make you work (and squint) to understand what’s going on. It’s also not an easy book emotionally. There are no easy answers given here; no answers at all, most of the time, and you have to look very hard to find the hope in some very bleak situations. What was maybe the most painful was that these kids had no one – their parents didn’t seem particularly aware of what they were struggling with, and they didn’t even really open up to each other. “Harrowing” is maybe not *quite* the right word, but it’s not far off, either. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I didn’t exactly enjoy it, per se, although I can see that it would be particularly powerful in the hands of someone who is struggling or has struggled with mental illness, particularly teens.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Lous_Pages
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First Line: “Mom? Mom? We’re here with the kids.”

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