You could say Polly Martin wrote the book on love–specifically on why to avoid it all costs. Despite all of the sensible advice from her grandmother’s syndicated advice column Miss Swoon and the cautionary tale of her own mother’s divorce, Polly’s junior year was filled with dating disaster after disaster. After disaster. And a few more disasters besides.
Polly has learned her lesson and is trying to focus on making her life a boyfriend free zone and making up to her best friend for spending the better part of a year focusing on guys instead of, you know, being a best friend.
The only problem is that Polly’s exes keep turning up in all the wrong places. A misguided job application has her working with Sawyer at the Wild Waves water park where he keeps asking her about her feelings. Running for student council to impress Hayden has landed her the unenviable position of planning the senior prom.
Then there’s Xander Cooper who seems determined to become Polly’s next ex boyfriend. Except Polly is done with boys. For real.
Polly is surrounded by people, especially ex boyfriends, who think they know her. Except Polly has spent so much time trying impress or please other people that she isn’t even sure who she is herself anymore. But maybe a self-declared relationship failure really can find herself and fall in love while working at a Western-themed water park in Swoon at Your Own Risk (2010) by Sydney Salter.
Swoon at Your Own Risk is a light, summery book that packs a punch and won’t disappoint readers looking for a book with some depth. Salter writing effortlessly brings to mind summer and madness of a water park during summer vacation to create a setting so vivid readers would be advised to keep their inner tubes handy.
Beyond that, Polly is a really astute character and one of my favorite narrators so far this year. Emotionally, Polly is a mess. She can’t tell where her own interests end or where her efforts to pursue boys starts. In a lot of ways Polly does everything wrong; she does things she dislikes to attract boys and she pretends she isn’t smart to avoid attention and she avoids talking about her feelings like nobody’s business. But even at her lowest, Polly is endearing and so incredibly smart that readers are willing to follow her crazy journey throughout the book to see where it all ends.
The amazing thing is all of Polly’s crazy mixed emotions and motivations are conveyed so clearly with Salter’s writing. Her narrative voice is strong and original, tossing around SAT vocabulary words and chemistry(?) references in the same breath as she explains how important it was, at the time, to be interested cars so that she could have something to talk about with a boy.
As the title might suggest Swoon at Your Own Risk is part romance and part humor. But it’s also a lot more. And it’s really clever. Salter has has created a delightful story and introduced a complex heroine that is a breath of fresh air.
Possible Pairings: The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, Sea Change by Aimee Friedman, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Exclusive Bonus Content (because I haven’t gushed enough yet): I also really, really, love the cover because I think it so perfectly captures the essence of this book. And I also need you all to know that Xander is amazing. He’s like the coolest male lead ever. He does origami and he writes in a notebook and I really wish I knew someone like him.
Finally, I also want to take a minute to mention how cool the structure of the book is. Polly’s first person narration is interspersed with excerpts from Miss Swoon’s advice column, a certain character’s notebook, and one of Polly’s coworker’s gossip blogs. That’s a lot of different voices and formats to juggle and Ms. Salter makes it look absolutely effortless.