Recommended Teen Novel: “Three Black Swans” by Caroline B. Cooney

So I was at the library doing some research for my assignment when I decided to check out the “new teen books” shelf on my way out.

Between the ages of 10 and 14, Caroline B. Cooney was one of my favourite authors.  She is the one who wrote The Face on the Milk Carton and its sequels, among a couple dozen other novels which are not as well-known.  Since she is a familiar author and her books are usually interesting to me, Three Black Swans (her latest book) immediately stood out on the shelf.  Despite the many other things that I could do on Friday evening, I decided to take this book home and read it.

I think to even try to summarize the plot would be a spoiler, particularly for us older, more seasoned readers.  Basically, a sixteen-year-old girl (Missy) makes a YouTube video for a school project with her cousin (Claire), who is also her best friend.  This video is seen by friends of a third girl (Genevieve), who share it with her, and all three girls and their parents have to deal with the consequences.  When I figure out how to do hidden text, I might make a more detailed plot summary and some discussion points.   Suffice to say that it is a mystery/family drama.

What I especially like about Cooney’s novels is that she treats her adult characters with respect.  Even though her main characters are teens, she makes sure to give some page-time to her adults and parts of the book are told from their perspective.  I think that reading books like this as a teen helped me gain an new appreciation for adults.  They really do have their own fears, dreams, plans, assumptions, etc. that often get lost in materials for younger audiences.  Three Black Swans is broken into chapters that are further broken down into segments (like films scenes) that are prefaced with a time/location stamp.  This allows various characters’ perspectives of the same event to be explored and also allows for adults to be brought into the story without them hijacking the main storyline.  Other books by Cooney that I read that employ this technique are Flash Fire, Flight #116 is Down, and Emergency Room.  These three books, however, take place over a much shorter period of time and thus their timestamps are more like “3:35pm, back porch, so-and-so’s house”.  In Three Black Swans, the narrative unfolds over a longer period, so the timestamps are more vague “Friday, so-and-so’s house.”  The cuts are such that the books can feel like a film sometimes, but I think they keep the story moving and allow for more characters to be explored.

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