Link to buy Swagger
Story Rating: 3 out of 5
Swagger is the story of a former high school girlfriend and boyfriend who are finally reunited after nine years apart. She has no idea where he's been for so long and is mystified by his sudden return. He had dropped off the face of the earth one day after being dragged from the school bus in handcuffs. He's reluctant to burden her with the tragic details of his crappy life. Little does he know, her life has its share of tragic and crappy, too. In other words, this book has all the makings for a match made in either heaven or hell.
I wanted to love this book. The title is great. The opening flashback image of totally hot high school dream Cruz walking down the bus aisle toward his girl Roxie really jumpstarted the story. The name of the motel Roxie's dad named after her is even cute: Motel on the Rox. But unfortunately there were a number of issues that were hard to overlook.
First off, the book caused whiplash from switching back and forth between past and present tense seemingly at random. It wasn't that there were frequent flashbacks or anything; there was simply a mishmash of verb tenses in practically every paragraph. Speaking of whiplash, the chapters switched back and forth between the perspectives of Roxie and her cool dude Cruz. Both stories were told in first person, and if a reader wasn't paying close attention to a switch in perspective, it was easy to lose track of whose thoughts you were listening in on.
From a story perspective, this book is based on the improbable premise that an incredibly hot guy has been obsessed with a girl he knew from high school for the past nine years. He never contacted her during that time; he just thought about her. A lot. To a downright disturbing level, in fact. It's equally improbable that no one in this small town knew what happened the day of Cruz's arrest or what happened to him afterward. Small towns simply don't work like that.
This book would have been improved by more careful editing, as well as backgrounds for the main characters that weren't quite so depressing. Conflict is one thing, but when you throw everything from PTSD to alcoholism to child abuse to sexual abuse to suicide at characters, it feels overloaded. And for sure include more focus on Cruz's swagger, because that was a high point of the book.
Reviewed by Amanda