The Compulsive Reader: Supernatural July: Swoon by Nina Malkin + Interview

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Supernatural July: Swoon by Nina Malkin + Interview

The small town of Swoon, Connecticut is a far cry from New York City, where Dice grew up. But that's where her parents plop her, in a restored farmhouse across the street from her aunt and uncle, the summer before Dice’s senior year. The only way Dice factors into the (tiny) social scene in Swoon is Pen, her beautiful and popular cousin, who is the epitome of sweet and innocent. So when Pen begins to act strangely after a tumble out of an old oak tree, Dice is instantly suspicious. Something has taken control over her cousin, and it's not something good.

Dice soon learns that that something is the ghost of Sinclair Youngblood Powers, and he's out to exact vengeance on the people of Swoon. Concerned for Pen's safety, Dice attempts to perform an exorcism—and unwittingly sets his spirit loose. Now Sin is a living, breathing human guy, determined to wreak havoc on all of Swoon' prominent families. Dice knows she has to stop the madness, but there's just one problem—she's in love with him.

Swoon is an electrifying read. The premise is unique and very appealing to the teenage set, and Malkin's confident and full-of-attitude style is catchy and entertaining. Dice is a strong narrator, and her tolerance for Swoon will hit home with any teen who struggles with being "stuck" in a small town. Her self-assurance and smarts make the book easy to get into, and her inexplicable love for Sin makes her a genuine character that is easy to relate to.

Malkin's presentation of Swoon and the people who live there is very detailed and memorable, from information about the town's history to the teens' tendencies for one syllable names, even if it may be a little confusing at first keeping the large cast of characters straight. However, cautious readers should be warned that there are copious amounts of underage drinking, many scenes with drug use, and quite a few sexual scenes (though for the most part, they’re not very graphic). Most of this behavior is chalked up to "teenagers just being teenagers", and these elements go hand in hand with the "sin" that is ravaging the town (brought on by the character Sin). Malkin doesn't pass judgment on these acts, a gesture which some teens can appreciate. Though some readers may be bothered by these elements, they don't detract from the fact that Malkin is an amazingly talented writer with an absolutely stellar vocabulary, and Swoon is a very well thought-out and imaginative read with a lively and witty protagonist that will leave you laughing and breathless and a lead man that will make you swoon.

Cover Comments: I like the general idea of this cover, with the tree (the tree is very important in the book!), the dark colors, and the girl "swooning". The only thing I didn't care for (and this is not just me, a few friends remarked upon this as well) is that the girl's bangs and the amount of hair being shown just looks awkward. But other than that, I think this is a very eye-catching cover that will definitely urge readers to pick up the book.
What three words would you use to describe Swoon?

I need only two: Sinfully good!

What element(s) would you say make Swoon unique?

Sinclair Youngblood Powers is unlike any character I’ve ever met in fiction, my own or anyone else’s. He’s both hero and antagonist, for one thing, and he’s complicated. He’s noble and strong, yet petty and weak. He’s capable of great tenderness, sensitivity and love, and enormous single-minded cruelty. He makes a lot of mistakes; sometimes he takes responsibility for them, sometimes he doesn’t. He’s a different person (if person is the right word…) by the end of the novel than he was at the start, but even his redemption isn’t clear-cut or wholly perfect. Sin frustrates a lot of readers. I’m all for that. People are frustrating.

Plus, I would hope that the basic plot premise is unique: Spirit of 18th century boy possesses body of 21st century girl, goes from ghost to flesh-and-mud golem, seeks revenge and finds true love instead…
How have your teen years influenced your writing?

Not sure I understand the question! Although technically I’m no longer a teenager, I’m not a very linear or spatial thinker, and I’m not an ageist. I don’t feel like an old(er) person imparting “wisdom” to a young(er) one in my work. I don’t write for teenagers, though I tend to write about them, since those are the people who by and large move into my head and tell me their stories—and I have no explanation for that.

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be and why?

On the surface, they all seem so tempting—flight, invisibility, changeling qualities, as well as the less jazzy but perhaps most powerful, utter dominion over others. Still, flight, invisibility or changeling qualities wouldn’t make such a big difference in my day-to-day. And utter dominion over others would be boring after a while.

If I had to pick something physically extraordinary, I’d have the ability to grow thorns at will over my entire body so that no one could hurt me. Of course that would only shield me from physical harm, and I’m far more vulnerable to emotional damage. It’d look cool, though…

To me the most compelling power would be total understanding and compassion. One of the main reasons I write is because I’m so mystified by human nature, the impulses that motivate this species. Working at fiction helps me figure it out a bit. But oh, to understand why people do the things they do—betray, lie, wage war, pollute—and what’s more be compassionate towards them, forgive and not judge them, that would be a power indeed!

What supernatural book are you itching to read?

For the most part, I read dead people. I buy books by living authors to support the publishing industry but I’m not especially drawn to the “contemporary.” So I am hopeful to someday re-read The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. I own them, and they call to me from the shelf. It would be incorrect to call her stories supernatural but they sure are creepy.

Thanks, Nina!


Vanessa said...

I am so looking forward to reading this book! Thanks for the review and interview.

Karen Veronica said...

Sounds pretty cool, it sounds like it has that paranormal factor, but with a small town twist.

Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

Nice review, and I agree, the hair on the cover looks kind of awkward.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Flannery O'Connor is VERY creepy...