Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Review: I Swear by Lane Davis

SUMMARY: Who’s to blame when bullying leads to suicide? A gripping exploration of crucial importance seeks answers in and out of the courtroom.

After years of abuse from her classmates, Leslie Gatlin decided she had no other options and took her own life. Now her abusers are dealing with the fallout.

When Leslie's parents file a wrongful death lawsuit against their daughter's tormenters, the proceedings uncover the systematic cyber bullying and harassment that occurred. The ringleader of the accused girls, Macie, maintains they are innocent. In her mind, Leslie chose be the coward they always knew she was.

Jillian, Katherine, and Beth try to keep their stories straight and shift the blame, as Jake, Leslie's only true friend, tries to make sense of what happened. As the events leading up to her death unfold, it becomes clear that Leslie may have taken her own life, but her bullies took everything else.

Told in alternating perspectives and through well-paced flashbacks, this timely novel sheds light on both the victims of bullying and the consequences bullies face.


Gripping and visceral, I Swear is a phenomenal tale of not only just how much being bullied can hurt, but the ramifications for those who had a hand in the bullying. Though there is certainly a central player in the bully ring with this one, there are several people involved and Davis dose a remarkable job of not only tying that together and not easily placing solitary blame, but also portraying the different views towards the events. With stunning characterization across the board, from the POVs we do get to who Leslie is and even Macie, I Swear is an unconventional but powerful take on bullying.

This one expertly alternates between four separate perspectives, including three people closely involved in everything that led to Leslie’s death and Jake, the boy who wanted to help her and saw past what everyone else did. There is a raw honesty particularly in Jake and Beth’s perspectives, with a give and take between the two that adds a deep intensity to the book. Beth, a girl with some big goals she’s set to achieve and a few secrets of her own she is determined to hide, battles against Jake, a boy who is just the right amount of sensitive but who also doesn’t make excuses for those he holds responsible. While I am glad to get to know all four characters we did, and the book certainly would’ve been very different without them, Jake and Beth stood out the most, not only for how starkly their two stories contrasted but also due to the depth of their emotions. The way each person’s story not only stands on its own but weaves with the others takes this book to some great levels, and definitely sets it apart.

Macie is infuriating, the perfect queen bee, so to speak, who seems to play a hand in everything yet keeps herself flawless and untouchable. She’s the one major character who’s perspective we don’t get, and here, I think it’s a good thing. Her true personality comes through the other’s eyes easily enough, and even her motivations for everything are depicted in a way that makes you understand her, even if you don’t agree or excuse. This, coupled with the way the others view towards everything and even the various levels of their own guilt, makes for an intricate look at how one targeted person can be so unable to escape the bullying.

There is a big legal component to this book, a devastated family looking for justice and some scared teens trying to avoid it. This is where this book really got me, twisting me in so many different ways. Davis artfully challenges readers to see both sides of things, from the devastated family seeking justice to the scared teens trying to avoid it. The full depth of what Leslie endured comes out as the story progresses, however, testing both the characters and readers more. With some deeply moving and visceral scenes, and a constant sense of pain and loss, this one is affecting and amazing. I Swear is without a doubt a book to make you think, and will challenge you.

Source: ARC won from contest 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 288 pages 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 4, 2012

1 comment:

  1. Looks like an interesting read, and just the kind of insight into this phenomenon that could help victims and perpetrators understand the implications. Might have to give this one a read.