REVIEW: Swear On This Life By Renee Carlino

Published: 9th August 2016

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia

Pages: 320

Format: Print courtesy of Kell’s Bookmark Clique Readers Retreat and Racy Hearts/Simon & Schuster Australia

RRP: $19.99

4.5/5 Stars  

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

Just before this book released, bloggers and readers alike were going crazy for Swear On This Life and I can recall feeling insanely jealous. They pitched the book as un-put-down-able, as heartbreaking and soul searching, and basically just something out of this world. So when Swear On This Life was named as the first book we’d be discussing at Kell’s Bookmark Clique Reader Retreat (and we received an early copy courtesy of the awesome people at Simon & Schuster) I was a little bit ecstatic. Having read the book now, I can say those initial reviewers were right. Swear On This Life is a brilliant narrative about first loves, what-ifs and second chances. It’s absolutely brilliant and a must read for lovers of contemporary romance and general fiction. You seriously need to read this book.

In short I’d sum up Swear On This Life as an addictive read; one that will have you racing towards the end of the book to know what happens next. It was the kind of book that took me on an unexpected journey and one that messed with my emotions, broke my heart and mended it all within the very short span of 320 pages. It was easy to read, and even easier still to fall in love with the characters.

Swear On This Life is so much more than just a boy-meets-girl story or a friends-next-door-romance … it’s a complicated and unbelievably strong tale about life and everything it can throw at you (the good, the bad and the downright ugly).   The way in which Carlino throws so much at the reader emotionally is kind of astounding. Here is a novel that should feel overly angst ridden and somewhat ‘other’ to many people, but she has managed to capture the basic essence of life through our universal emotions and has nailed the most astounding book of possibly the entirety of 2016. One that is sure to have you weeping alongside the characters and championing their future.

Told through unconventional methods, Swear On This Life is not only a brave book because of the way it tackles some darker themes (alcoholism, neglect, abuse, substance abuse, the underside of foster homes), but also because of the way it is written. Told through the use of dual narrative, Swear On This Life  is ultimately a book within a book, for we have Emiline’s present life as she struggles to write and make a name for herself (and the life in which she discovers the book) told through present tense, but alternating every other chapter is Emi’s fictional world told through the story of Jase, a childhood friend and lover. A story the real world Emiline didn’t want to come to light.

This unusual narrative technique works for the book for the most part. For without the two perspectives and the tension between the two very real stories, Swear On This Life  wouldn’t be half the book it was today. And yet … it is jarring at times too as the reader is essentially reading two different novels at once and being told to pick and choose what they believe. Interestingly, I never felt like either of Carlino’s narratives were telling me how to read the book, despite physically reading real world Emiline’s visceral reaction to what she’s reading.

Swear On This Life was a heartbreaking novel that I dived into without a second glance for a life raft to save me. It broke me at times, and tried tragically to sow the pieces back up, but like all things mended in life, I will never be the same having read this astounding novel by Renee Carlino. It opened my eyes to a world of pain before offering me a glimmer of hope, one that I will continue to hold on too with both hands.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.

To purchase a copy of Swear On This Life , visit the following online retailers:

Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Book Depository | Booktopia | Dymocks |  Simon & Schuster Australia | QBD |


To learn more about Renee Carlino, visit the following social media pages:

Author WebsiteGoodreads | Instagram | Pinterest  | Simon & Schuster Australia |  Twitter


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