Swell is a book about a girl who has taken too many wrong directions and decisions, all before the age of 16. The story revolves around Beck, a plain jane who finally gets admitted to the world of the popular crowd when Christian, the smart, hot, and "in" guy ends up being her boyfriend. However what she didn't sign up for was his drinking habits, and her needing to always keep up with them. Enter her drinking problem that she swats away as a "way to relax". The drinking just kept on getting more and more out of hand. I was in awe by what Beck would do just to be able to get her hands on a 6-pack of beer. Beck's best friend notices her issue immediately and tries to help her but when Beck resists she tells her that she doesn't want to get tangled up in all of this. I understand where she's coming from. She's not really abandoning her, but she's just 15 for god's sake! she doesn't know whether to tell on her to her parents, or be more patient with her and label it as a phase, or to just stay away from her! Also some of the situations Beck ended up in just to get her hands on alcohol were downright scary and dangerous.
The beginning, Julie tricks you in thinking this is a typical cute contemporary where the girl finally gets her chance with the hot guy all the girls want and the one she's been secretly crushing on for ages. Then all of this sense of safety and happiness is ripped from you when you notice the constant drinking. I am not exaggerating when I say the word alcohol, or any type of it or the consumption of it showed up on every single page of this book. I was afraid for Beck, I couldn't believe that her parents didn't notice their daughter's behavior and hangovers and when they did, they gave her a chance, then a second, then a third. I felt that they weren't strict towards her and kept on blindly believing that she'll stay clean. A horrible, huge thing had to happen for Beck to finally realize how deep the pit she dug herself in was and that she really is an alcoholic. This frustrated me to no ends but who am I to tell them to think logically? that is what addiction does to you I guess.
I really enjoyed Julie's narration. At the beginning of every chapter there is a paragraph or two about something that happens in the future. You only get snippets of it at the beginning of each chapter but from that you know the road she is heading to isn't a pleasant or safe one. The characters were all so real, there was no sugar coating anything. Some of them just didn't have a good side, and some of them were downright evil in my opinion. Swell is such a realistic book. I am sure, in this century, many kids end up in situations like this when they get with the wrong crowd and have no confidence or individuality to fight the peer pressure they get to fit in. I recommend this novel to all realistic fiction lovers and anyone wanting to read a story about a love gone wrong.