Flipped and I kept raving about how much I love Wendelin Van Draanen?
No fear. I still love her. Probably even more now.
Swear To Howdy is about friendship. It's about two young boys, Rusty and Joey, and all the lovely little issues that young boys tend to get into. And it's about the trouble they fall in when they take keeping each others' secrets too faithfully.
Sound pretty typical? Sounded like it to me. But, as usual, Wendelin Van Draanen has a spectacular writing voice - even when writing preteen Southern kids - and she keeps you entertained with delightful little anecdotes until - of course - she pulls out all the stops and kills you with a massive plot twist. It's a short book, but it's worth every page.
First, my pet peeve: characters.
Rusty is a great MC. He sounds real. His friend is the ringleader, but, unlike a lot of books, Rusty is no pushover. He goes along with Joey because he wants to, and he comes up with his own ideas, too. He's a refreshing MC and a refreshing little kid.
Joey is your typical leader-not-follower, but he still sparkles with life. I understood why Rusty followed him - he's a fun guy, and if I had been his friend when I was little, I might have gotten into a lot of trouble, too. I loved the rest of Rusty's family - his sister, his mom, his dad. And Joey's family felt real, too - I don't want to say too much, because half the fun of this book is learning as you read. But Van Draanen pulled it off really, really well.
At first, the structure of the book felt like it was just going to be a bunch of little short stories, almost. Nothing seemed really related, except that after almost every incident, Rusty and Joey would 'swear to howdy' that they wouldn't tell about the other's involvement. And then it all started coming together, and little pieces of the plot connected, until...
WHAM. Your breath is knocked out of your lungs.
Again, not going to say too much. But... that plot twist, and what followed, was so well-executed. So horrible and to read. I mean, it really hurt me. All those seemingly insignificant events had made me like Rusty and Joey and the rest so much, and when that Plot Twist of Doom came...
Okay, I won't tell you anything more about the book. Except to read it. Because it really is good. Got it? READ THE BOOK.