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SWALLOWING STONES by Joyce McDonald

SWALLOWING STONES

By Joyce McDonald

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-32309-3
Publisher: Delacorte

 The best day of Michael Mackenzie's life becomes the worst when the bullet he exuberantly fires into the air during his 17th birthday party comes down a mile away and kills a man. When he hears the story on the radio, the news hits him like a lightning bolt. Numbly following the advice of his best friend, Joe, he buries the rifle and tries, without much success, to get on with life. So does the victim's 15-year-old daughter, Jenna, who had been present when the bullet struck. Switching between Michael's point-of-view and Jenna's, McDonald (Comfort Creek, 1996) sends the two teenagers dancing slowly toward each other, using mutual acquaintances, chance meetings at parties and the community pool, and glimpses at a distance. Both go through parallel phases of denial, both are tortured by remorse, exhibit behavior changes, and experience strange dreams; both eventually find ways to ease their grief and guilt. When the police close in, Joe takes the blame, giving Michael the nerve to confess. In the final chapter, McDonald shifts to present tense and brings Michael and Jenna to a cathartic meeting under a huge sycamore said in local Lenape legend to be a place of healing--an elaborate and, considering the suburban setting and familiar contemporary characters, awkward graft in this deliberately paced but deeply felt drama. (Fiction. 11-13)