Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald tells the story of Michael and Jenna, two teenagers whom prior to the prologue have not met, but whom afterwards find themselves thrown together again and again throughout the course of the novel. On his 17th birthday, Michael fires his new Winchester rifle into the air. The bullet travels over a mile and strikes Jenna’s father, who had been working on his roof, killing him instantly. The events that follow are the result of Michael’s impulsive decision to shoot his new gun. Several characters are lured into abusing alcohol and other drugs to cope with the crime, while Jenna becomes a victim of anxiety attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Objections have been raised to the appropriateness of this novel for young adults on those grounds, as well as the grounds that the protagonist is effectively a murderer, although the text treats him very empathetically, swaying the reader’s perception of his actions.
By: Joyce McDonald