Summary: Travelling by bus from Lethbridge, Alberta back to Victoria, British Columbia with his semi-girlfriend Lee, and his younger friend Poppy, Hunter reflects on the reason why he was sent away, and everything that has happened since one fateful day with his best friend Niall.
Number of Pages: 215
Age Range: 14-16
Review: I know my summary is short for Swimmers by Amy Bright, but I hesitate to say more because Bright’s book is a delicately structured read that relies heavily on the suspense of a story slowly being unveiled.
Hunter is a seventeen year-old who hasn’t always made the best choices, but when his friendship with Niall ends in tragedy, Hunter is left to sink or swim. After a cry for help his parents send him away to Alberta to live with his aunt for a while, and while he is there he meets a twelve year-old girl named Poppy who knows what he is going through for different reasons.
It’s a story about learning how to survive after being left behind, and how the decisions of others can impact our lives irreparably. Poppy was my favourite character, because I liked her personality and had the most empathy for her. Caught in circumstances completely beyond her control, Poppy is vulnerable but also possesses a great deal of spirit that drives her defend her family the best way she knows how.
I found Hunter’s story to be a bit more puzzling. I still don’t quite understand why he was drawn to Niall in the first place when he seemed to have a good support system of friends. Also, while Niall does make decisions Hunter has no control over, there are many decisions along the way that Hunter did make, over and over again.
My mind is still trying to sort everything out because it’s a non-linear tale, but I enjoyed the road trip aspect, and Hunter’s Aunt Lynne’s willingness to take him in when he really needs a place to go.
With themes of drug use and personal harm, I would recommend it to mid teen readers.
“I let Aunt Lynne lead the way to the east side of the clinic, where they took their five vials and shipped them off to the lab at the hospital. I got that Aunt Lynne was trying to teach me something here. Something about learning the repercussions of your actions. But there wasn’t really a repercussion. My liver hadn’t failed. My lungs hadn’t shriveled up and died. I was pretty much a normal human teenage boy. Adults got off on teaching lessons to kids. But sometimes there wasn’t a lesson to learn. Sometimes stuff just happened and you dealt with it. It wasn’t all a teachable moment.” – Hunter from Swimmers by Amy Bright, page 137