Cover of I Swear. Five teens with their mouths blocked out

About the Book

Title: I Swear
Published: 2012

Cover Story: Giant Teen Faces With Gags
Drinking Buddy:
You Are All Terrible People
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (suicide, sexuality, language)
Talky Talk:
It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Sits In Her Garage All Night With the Car Engine Running
Bonus Factors:
Cast of Thousands, Internet Mistakes are Forever
Bromance Status:
F*ck Off and Die…Wait, I Totally Didn’t Mean That!

Cover Story: Giant Teen Faces With Gags

Giant teen faces again, only their mouths are blocked out because they’re all like keeping a secret.

I don’t care for this cover because it does not let us paint our own mental pictures of the characters. There’s Beth, Katherine, Macie, Jillian and Josh. No imagination required.

Beth’s kinda cute, though.

The Deal:

You know how kids are, one minute they’re friends, the next they’re fighting. Popular Macie just doesn’t care for Leslie, and she makes sure that none of the other ‘cool’ kids do either. She gives Leslie the business, snubbing her, writing spiteful things on her locker, sending her e-mails saying how she’s a whore who should die…ah, teenage drama.

Until one night, Leslie locks herself in the garage and cranks up the engine of her mom’s car. Leslie is dead. And her parents want to know why. So does Josh, the boy who desperately loved her. And now Macie and her friends are going to have to think of a way to shift the blame, and fast. Luckily, Macie is the daughter of a politician. She knows how to work the crowds and manipulate the media. If anyone can make this go away, it’s her. And of course, she’d never throw her friends to the wolves to protect herself. No way.

Drinking Buddy: You Are All Terrible People

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

Macie is the epitome of the mean girl: spiteful, vengeful, hurtful, beautiful, and a lot of other -fuls. When Leslie winds up on her shit list, Macie makes sure her friends help ensure that Leslie’s life is a living hell.

Aside from Macie, these are not ‘bad’ kids: Beth is afraid her deepest secret will come out if she doesn’t participate. Jillian likes being one of the in crowd, the popular kids. Katherine knows that Macie’s father can help her get into an Ivy League school. And really, they’re just little harmless pranks. Those eggs will wash right off. But when all is said and done, Leslie is dead. Was that letter of recommendation and a chance to go to go to Paris really worth it?

Josh was the only character I truly liked in this book, though now that Leslie is gone, all that’s left is a lot of impotent rage.

You’re all awful people, and I hope your dreams never come true.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (suicide, sexuality)

This is not an action-packed book. It opens with the suicide, then there’s a whole lot of finger pointing, court depositions, and cat fights.

Talky Talk: It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Sits In Her Garage All Night With the Car Engine Running

Bullying is big news these days, and the powers that be seem to be finally taking it seriously. But for a lot of people, it’s still a matter of kids will be kids, sticks and stones, adults doing something will only make things worse. And often, sadly, it takes a dead body before people realize how miserable it can be to be the odd one out.

I especially liked this book because Leslie wasn’t awkward or nerdy at all. She was beautiful, intelligent, and had the personality to be one of the most well-liked girls in school. But she offended Macie, and that’s all it took. Bullying can happen to anyone, not just the weird kids, and I Swear does a good job of showing that everyone has their breaking point.

Bonus Factor: Cast of Thousands

Large crowd of people

This book is told in the first person, alternating POVs between Josh (the zombie movie buff who loved Leslie), Jillian (Josh’s twin sister, a born follower), Beth (the awkward gymnast with a secret), and Katherine (the Southern-born African American beauty queen). Clark does a great job of making each voice distinct and each character arc unique. Unfortunately, it took me several chapters to get a real sense of who was who. Also, we’re deliberately kept in the dark over everyone’s relationship with Leslie until much later in the book, so we know that everyone is guilty, but are unsure why.  Things could have moved along just slightly faster.

Bonus Factor: Internet Mistakes Are Forever

Homer Simpson in Russian attire

Macie and the girls tormented Leslie via social media channels. But when Leslie wound up dead, the police subpoenaed all of her Facebook and e-mail records. The girls’ nasty little comments are now public knowledge.

As a former junior high computer teacher, I found myself repeatedly trying to drum into their thick little skulls that anyone can see anything you put online forever. Naked pictures, confessions to criminal activity, ugly clothes…once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.

A cautionary tale…

Bromance Status: F*ck Off and Die…Wait, I Totally Didn’t Mean That!

As far as I’m concerned, this book can go slit its wrists.

Shit, sorry, didn’t mean that. Seriously. You’re okay, dude. It’s all good. Really. You okay, man?

Literary Matchmaking

Hate List

Another book about how someone’s cruel words came back to haunt them.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor beer for reviewing this library book.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.