Review: Swimming to Chicago by David-Matthew Barnes
Title: Swimming to Chicago
Author: Barnes, David-Matthew
Length: 264 pages
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, GLBTQ
Publisher / Year: Bold Strokes Press / 2011
Source: Amazon Kindle store
Rating: -indie lit shortlist book-
Why I Read It: Indie Lit shortlist book.
Date Read: 18/02/12
This book follows two main characters, Alex and Jillian, through their final year of high school, and a host of others around them. Starting in the summer prior to their final year, the two best friends have started drifting apart. Jillian is devastated and can’t figure out why, and finally Alex admits to her that he is gay. Their friendship remains, though it is again strained by secrets when Robby moves in across the street and he and Alex immediately start dating.
Through the book we follow what happens to these two characters, as well as to their and their family and loved ones. I really loved that Alex was an Armenian-American character and thus the book presented a bit more diversity in terms of character ethnicities than is often seen. I also liked the way that Alex and Robby’s relationship was portrayed, as just a regular budding relationship filled with all the hopes and dreams and worries that such a time brings.
What was less well done was the flat portrayal of Jillian. She does what she does because she has no father, giving us that typical girl looking for a daddy trope. In addition, the comments directed at her mother are biting and both incredibly shaming and classist. Really all of the females were drawn as one-dimensional and stereotypical, which was unfortunate as the male characters showed more depth, proving the author has more skill than was shown through the female characters. Lastly, the ending was a bit more melodramatic than necessary, proving a quick and easy ending to the story.
That being said, it was still a decent read that provides more diversity than many of the more popular titles, which is sorely needed. My hope is that in future works Barnes is able to create more realistic and fully imagined female characters to match the male characters who already show this depth.