The Swallows takes place at Stonebridge Academy, a New England prep school where students and faculty live on a beautiful bucolic campus at the edge of a small town. Alex Witt, a bit of an iconoclast, takes a job teaching there. When many of her students in an anonymous first-day assignment claim to love or hate the Darkroom, she discovers a deep conspiracy at the heart of the school’s social structure.

Told by Alex, the feckless Finn Ford, the warrior Gemma, and the shy conflicted Norman, the story covers just half a year at the school. There are several threads woven together with a tragic teacher named Claudine who is martyred to her mother, it seems. There are student and teacher romances and underneath it all, a sociopathic reign of terror against the girls of Stonebridge warred by the “editors” of the Darkroom.

The Swallows was a fast read. I was intrigued and entertained, often amused by Lisa Lutz’ wit and humor. When Witt decides to encourage the girls she teaches to value themselves more, creating a decision tree for whether or not to give a blowjob, it was called a blowchart. It was clever and the blowchart is included. However, at times her wit seemed out of place in the face of what actually was happening. The story is actually grimly disturbing. I don’t object to humor, but the tone of the book seemed off, or more accurately, the tone of the book at the beginning suggested something less sinister. Even the title is a pun, a horrible one. This clash of purpose is sometimes jarring. Nonetheless, I didn’t lose interest for a minute.

The Swallows will be released on August 13th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.

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