Monday, November 12, 2012

Blog Tour: Swell by Julie Reiman Duck (Review, Interview, & Giveaway)

I am so excited to be on the blog tour for Julie Rieman Duck's latest novel, Swell! A huge thank you to Candace from Candace's Book Blog for allowing me to be a part of this tour! :) On my stop today, I am showcasing my review of this phenomenal novel as well as welcoming Julie Rieman Duck to join me for a short interview today. In addition, there will be a giveaway both for US and International Readers, so be sure to enter! Good Luck! :D

You can check out the other tour stops HERE!

Title: Swell 

Author: Julie Rieman Duck 

Rating: 4 Stars 

For anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you that contemporary really isn’t my preferred genre. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of contemporary novels I can claim to have truly loved and while I can’t add Swell to that pile with rivals like Melina Marchetta, Cath Crowly, and Kristen Hubbard sitting up there, it definitely is added to my list of contemporary novels I truly enjoyed.

Swell is told in a unique manner, each chapter starting out with a few brief paragraphs of our protagonist, Beck, drunk and about to have something very, very bad happen to her. After this short glimpse of the present, we are jilted back into the past as Beck recounts her story of how she met her boyfriend, Christian, and came to become an alcoholic. While Beck’s narration of the past was slow-moving and could drag at some points, it set up a strong foundation, both of Beck’s character, the nuances of her relationship with Christian, and the slow dependency that she grew to have on alcohol. Furthermore, Duck’s writing is addictive – even if you want to put it down, the brief glimpses of the future/present make you keep flipping the pages, anxiously wondering what will happen to Beck.

Thus, I have to give Duck props for her impeccable characterization. Beck is, at first, a girl I would have instantly wanted to become friends with. With her love of art and sweet disposition, she isn’t easy to dislike, but as the novel progresses, her actions become increasingly silly and her alcoholism is horrifying. Yet, what makes Swell so remarkable is the fact that Duck makes you feel so invested in the story, in Beck’s life, that you want her to become alright and even though you don’t condone her actions, you understand them so, so well and even have to wonder, at times, if you would fall into the same traps if you were in her position.

Swell is a dark, gritty, and issue novel, which made it hard to get through because of its subject-matter in many parts, but it’s oh-so-real as well. It never felt dramaticized, cliché, or exceedingly typical and was, truly, an intensely original novel. In addition to Beck, we become close to her boyfriend, the enigmatic and “perfect” Christian. While I never fully warmed up to Christian, there were times when I could forget what a bad influence he was on Beck and simply be happy for their relationship – which is, again, a sign of Duck’s superb writing prowess. Jesse, however, was the character who truly stole my heart. Although Jesse only appeared after nearly half the novel, we get to know him as well – even better in some parts – than Christian.

What do I say about Jesse? *swoons* Well, he is kind, sweet, and an artist just like Beck, but most of all, their relationship blossoms so sweetly through conversation unlike the attraction/lust between Christian and Becca that I fell for it – hard. I will admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that these two started liking each other while Becca was still dating Christian, but their romance still drew me in.

Nevertheless, despite all these wonderful points, Swell never truly won me over until the end. It was perfect. It also had a huge plot twist which I loved and I was left feeling immensely satisfied. However, Swell definitely was a really tough novel for me to get through and I had to put it on hold for a couple days after a point because of how dark it was. Yet, it’s one of those novels that simply demands to be read, both because of its subject-matter and writing. Its characters will stick with you for pages to come but most importantly, the message Duck leaves behind is one of lasting significance. Truly, I can’t envision any other author tackling this on in a better – or more realistically moving – way. 
Born in Los Angeles and raised in San Clemente, California, Julie Rieman Duck wrote her way through school on an old-fashioned typewriter. Somewhere along the line, she was sidetracked by careers in magazine publishing and copywriting. While Julie honed her skills at writing print ads and articles, the stories that moved her heart and soul were bubbling underneath, waiting to escape. It took a medical scare and the loss of her job — on the same day and within 30 minutes of each other — to finally allow her stories to free themselves and be put to paper. Julie looks forward to writing more stories that hit where the heart beats fastest, and the soul reaches out for more.            
Visit Julie at: / / Goodreads / YA Stands (Author Interviews) Every Other Tuesday 

Interview with Julie Rieman Duck 
My Questions for the Interview 
Julie's Responses to the Questions 

What makes Swell stand out, to me at least, is how realistic it is. What enabled you to write such a realistic portrayal of teenage alcoholism? 

While I didn't become alcoholic, I did depend on it quite a bit as a teenager because I was devastated. I was afraid. I hated who I was and I wanted to get rid of it. So I cut my hair, lined my eyes, and drank whenever and wherever I could. A few friends had similar experiences, one going to rehab... I knew this lifestyle as a teenager and it wasn't very fun, in retrospect. This enabled me to write SWELL from a realistic standpoint. It was real. It is real.

An aspect of this novel that I loved was Beck's artistic inclinations and passion for art. What made you think of making Beck an artist and how did her artistic talent shape this novel? 

Art is fun! Before I was a writer, I was an artist. So, incorporating this aspect into who Beck is was easy. Artists (and all creatives) are sensitive people. That is how we create things from our dreams and visions. Beck is an empathetic soul, and being an artist makes her doubly so.

In Swell, Beck's alcoholism is a direct cause of her relationship with Christian. What made you choose peer pressure as a cause for Beck's problem opposed to other reasons that also drive people to drink alcohol excessively? 

I think as teenagers, we are so vulnerable to peer pressure that whatever is demanded of us, we shall conform to. So we drink, we smoke pot, we sleep with our boyfriends even if we don't really want to. Peer pressure drives everything.

It would be remiss of me not to ask you about Jesse, especially as I loved him so much, so what can you tell about him, how you crafted his character, and just how big of an impact Jesse had on Beck.

Jesse is my love! I love him. He was based off a character from the movie, Keith (based on a story by Ron Carlson). Jesse is a positive person in spite of his life experiences. He is the good vibe we all need when we are down. We all should have a Jesse in our lives at some time or another.

What do you hope readers take from this dark, gritty, and coming-of-age story? 

That you can come out of the darkness. You are loved. You are not alone. And although you must go through your dark journey, just know that the other side of the fence holds a future that goes above and beyond this here-and-now experience.

Julie, I loved your thoughtful responses and took so much away from them, so really, thanks for stopping by! 

This is a tour wide giveaway that ends 12/18/12.

One person (open to US only) will win:
  • Paperback of Swell by Julie Rieman Duck 
  • Paperback of A Place in This Life by Julie Rieman Duck 
One other winner (Open Worldwide) will win:
  • 1 ebook of Swell by Julie Rieman Duck
  • 1 ebook of A Place in This Life by Julie Rieman Duck 
  • 1 ebook of The Joy and Torture by Joshua James
  • 1 ebook of Earrings of Ixtumea by Kim Baccellia 
  • 1 ebook of Cornerstone by Misty Provencher 
  • 1 ebook (Kindle) of There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack


  1. Oh Keertana, I have tears in my eyes cause your review was so beautiful! You said things so very, very well. I felt the same way as you with most everything you said. I too loved Jesse and loved the light he brought to the book. I also had to take breaks but I couldn't seem to stay away, I needed to know what happened.
    Anyway, thank you for being on the tour!
    I will stop by tomorrow to tweet, facebook and all that good stuff to spread the word.

  2. I'm discovering I have a thing for artists. The moment I read you say Jesse is an artist... *SWOON* I love how you describe their blossoming relationship. That's what I want to see more often: CONVERSATION. Rather than instant attraction because someone is good looking.

    Sweel sounds amazin and intense and powerful and inspiring and even though it didn't completely win you over, it still shows how highly you think of it. And when Keertana writes reviews like this, THE WORLD LISTENS. I love her final answer in your fantastic interview too, it's beautiful! <3

  3. Keertana once again you have done an amazing job with this review, I finished this book the other day and have to agree with all of your points. I'm a huge contemporary fan, but this book was really tough, watching Beck go through all the heartache and turmoil but Duck did a fantastic job at portraying it. I'm so glad that I didn't pass up on the opportunity to read this book! :)

  4. I just adore this review so much, Keertana! Contemporary YA is never my first choice either, or my second one for that matter, and if I do choose to read it, I'm far more likely to pick up something like Dairy Queen or GRaffiti Moon than an issue book. And yet, with your recommendation and with the knowledge that it leads to a positive and hopeful message, this seems too good to pass.
    Thank you, dear!

  5. "Swell is told in a unique manner, each chapter starting out with a few brief paragraphs of our protagonist, Beck, drunk and about to have something very, very bad happen to her."

    Oh man. That causes me so much stress I can't even tell you. I have a really hard time reading books like this, especially when I know something bad is coming, I just want to run away and stick my head in the sand, pretending that if I just don't read it, the bad things won't actually happen:) I'm kind of amazingly delusional like that. So glad you enjoyed it overall Keertana, and I'm super curious about this huge plot twist at the end!

  6. I am very glad I decided to review this. I like a good gritty contemporary with believeable characters and a message. Jesse sounds wonderful and I can't wait to meet him. I have this in two weeks and I am looking forward to reading this soon!

  7. Jesse is an artist too? Oh I can't resist the artistic types! ;) I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this, Keertana. Contemporary really isn't my favoured genre either, but I'm starting to ease into it more and want to give this a try one day. It sounds a lot better than I first anticipated. Wonderful review!

  8. I'm with you... I don't find too many contemp YA that I absolutely love, but I think I'd enjoy this one as well. As soon as you said that Jesse was an artist I was sold. I usually get into the contemps that have some sort of artistic expression involved. Great review and interview!

  9. Wow, wonderful review, Keertana! I wasn't sure what to expect of this book when I saw it flying around the blogosphere. But after reading your review, I know Swell is a good one! The fact that it's an "issue" book, it draws me in all the more. I'm so happy to hear that you were very satisfied with the plot-twisted ending! Yay for enjoying this contemporary, again, BEAUTIFUL review! :)

  10. Thank you so much for having read SWELL, Keertana. It was a hard story to write because it is real in many ways.

    I am getting a strong feeling that Jesse needs his own story one day. The boy is amazing!

    Julie Duck

  11. This does seem like a dark book to get through, but one filled with hope. I appreciate how the authors personal experience helped in crafting this story. I'm sure it made it more believable. Wonderful review and interview! :)

  12. I'm not much of a contemp reader either, but after reading a few that surprised me this year I'm definitely will to give this a go. Great review! ^^

  13. Yep! This book sounds amazing! Wonderful review and fantastic questions and answers! sweet guys are so rare so Jesse sounds awesome. :) Swell sounds like the perfect blend of dark realism and hope!

  14. Everything, from your review to the brief interview and the book itself, is utterly beautiful. Swell sounds like JUST the book for me, as you describe it as being a gritty Issue book with art elements (a bonus for an art lover like myself!) I'm really delighted to see that a contemporary book, whilst not falling in your group of favourite genres still stole a small portion of your heart, Keertana. :)

  15. Great review and thanks for the giveaway!

  16. This sounds intriguing--I have trouble with a lot of contemporary novels too (especially "issue" ones), but your review has convinced me this one's worthwhile.

    Thanks for posting the interview, too!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  17. Great post and nice story. Everything in your review is beautiful. thanks for sharing.


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