Hello, and welcome to my second blog post for the Fantastic Flying Book Club BLINK Summer Reading Tour. Have you ever read a contemporary book written entirely in verse? Do you appreciate YA with diverse characters and tackling head-on the contemporary issues of American society, including racism, inclusion, prejudice, and belonging? If yes, then Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess is definitely for you! Read on below for a synopsis, my *SPOILER FREE* review + favorite quotes, more info about the authors, and an exciting giveaway!
Things usually do not go as planned for seventeen-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since third grade, Sam, will never take it past the “best friend” zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool.
To go from lovelorn to ladies’ men, Walt introduces Noah to a relationship guru—his Dairy Queen-employed cousin, Floyd—and the always informative Woohoo Woman Podcast. Noah is reluctant, but decides fate may be intervening when he discovers more than just his mom’s birthday gift at the thrift shop. Inside the vintage Keepall is a gold mine of love letters from the 1960s. Walt is sure these letters and the podcasts are just what Noah needs to communicate his true feelings to Sam. To Noah, the letters are more: an initiation to the curious rhythms of love and jazz, as well as a way for him and Walt to embrace their own kind of cool. While Walt is hitting balls out of the park and catching the eye of the baseball coach, Noah composes anonymous love letters to Sam in an attempt to write his way into her heart. But as things are looking up for Noah and Walt, a chain of events alters everything Noah knows to be true about love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.
In Swing, bestselling authors Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (Solo) present a free-verse poetic story that will speak to anyone who’s struggled to find their voice and take a swing at life.
This book is so unique, and you might think the fact it is written in all poetry would make it light and fluffy, but in fact, the opposite is true. I felt like the format really allowed us inside the head of our main character, Noah, and it was really easy to get emotionally invested and cheer for him. The pages flew by and I read the book in one sitting, but I still felt I got deep inside the characters. I also loved how the poetry really gave a sense of the zany personality of Noah’s best friend Walt, and also really shows the reader the big feelings Noah has about Sam, his first love. Definitely a big thumbs up from me for this format, and I look forward to reading other books written in verse.
I really liked the flow of the plot overall, but I felt like the last 100 pages were a big shift, and it was like my brain couldn’t quite keep up. For me, the ending came a bit out of left field, and while I think the point it makes is valid and worthwhile, giving me a lot to chew on, it also left me reeling a bit, and I’m not sure it totally worked with the rest of the book. At least, for me. Still, I loved the rest of the book and understand why the ending is the way it is, so it’s still a 4 star read for me! (Sorry for being intentionally vague–I just really don’t want to spoil this for anyone.)
The bottom line? This is a fantastic contemporary story about friendship, racism, and first love, told from a refreshing and unique perspective. I recommend reading it, and I will for sure be picking up the other books by these authors!
“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything.”
“Open the door to your destiny.”
“I sit behind the steering wheel and close my eyes for a moment that feels as raw as an open wound.”
“You either uphold the status quo, or you see what’s wrong and try to change it.”
“Everyone’s either smiling or smirking, twirling or twerking, posing or posturing, kissing or wanting. And I’m here playing solitaire.”
About the Author: Kwame Alexander
Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.
About the Author: Mary Rand Hess
Mary Rand Hess is a poet, screenwriter, mixed-media artist, and New York Times bestselling author of notable and award-winning books such as Solo and Swing(Blink YA), coauthored with Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander, Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures (National Geographic Children’s Books), also coauthored with Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido, Little Larry Goes to School (National Geographic Children’s Books), written with renowned photographer and filmmaker, Gerry Ellis, and the forthcoming picture book, The One and Only Wolfgang: From Pet Rescue to One Big Happy Family, coauthored with Steve Greig of @wolfgang2242 Instagram fame. She is currently at work on a few novels in verse, picture books, and screenplays.
Blog Tour Schedule
Prize: Win 1 of 5 BLINK Summer Reading Tour Book Bundles (A Touch of Gold, Meet the Sky, No Place Like Here, Pretty InPunxsutawney, and Swing by Kwame Alexander).
Open to U.S. residents, ends on August 9. Click here for the rafflecopter.