SWANS & KLONS Review Round-Up

Now that Swans & Klons has been out for a month, here is a review round-up! First of all, Swans & Klons was mentioned in a major (online) publication, TheAtlantic.com!

“. . . I'll be sitting here contemplating Nora Olsen's Swans & Klons, a YA lesbian sci-fi novel that's one of the best piece of new fiction I've read in a long time, but which no mainstream publication will pay me to write about because it doesn't have a massive marketing budget and everybody else hasn't already written about it.”

-Noah Berlatsky, The Atlantic

George R.R. Martin is sad because The Atlantic article said his books are no good, whereas Swans & Klons is great.

Swans & Klons was also listed in a USA Today (online) compilation of paranormal romances. Pretty cool, especially since Swans & Klons isn’t paranormal!


Writers always hope to make it into Kirkus Reviews, and I was that lucky.

"In an idyllic all-female future, Rubric and Salmon Jo’s luxurious life is disrupted by their Utopia’s dark side."

-Kirkus Reviews

Now let’s see what the blogosphere has to say about Swans & Klons.

That same discerning writer from The Atlantic wrote in his blog/online magazine:

Perhaps because her queer themes are more acknowledged and controlled, she’s able to tell a YA story that isn’t about growing up to know the truth of difference (“Vampires are real!”  Magic is real!”) Instead, Swans & Klons urges its readers to define humanity as broadly and generously as possible, so that it includes adults, and children, and everyone on the margins.

-Noah Berlatsky, The Hooded Utilitarian

And the rest!

[Rubric and Salmon Jo] wonder whether it’s worth fighting a seemingly impossible battle, whether things are really as bad as they think, whether the “other side” is really any better, etc. Revolution is not an easy or peaceful process. Even trying to imagine or work towards it is messy and exhausting. I liked that Swans & Klons didn’t offer easy answers. . . And at the very end, I liked the none-of-the-above, open-ended conclusion. It left some questions, and there is definitely a whole other story ahead of them (not one that’s going to be, or necessarily needs to be, written, but still), but I found it to be satisfying, especially considering how ambitious it is to fit a story about a whole dystopian society into such a slim book.

-Danika, The Lesbrary

The author has created a world which is vividly described and well thought through.  The book covers some serious social issues but they are subtly handled.

-Susan, Hearts On Fireheartfire

I love it when society is the villain. . . It makes you feel suffocated, like there's no way the main characters can win. Yet they pull out some how. . . Lastly, the last few pages made my heart hammer.

-Kelly Matherly, Read It In HoustonCartoonMe-last-01

[A] fully realized science fiction world where two energetic, hopeful young characters try to make political change and find adventure. . . . It's a high stakes but high spirited adventure, and I recommend it for yourself and the teens in your life: it holds together well, with just the right mix of realistic teenage love and a fascinating speculative world. And Olsen leaves an opening for more adventures!

-Meredith Sue Willis, Books For Readers

So far, in my reading experience, this is a unique plot and I always enjoy running into that.  This is another novel with a strong female protagonist, even if she doubted herself. Rubric and Salmon Jo both have a lot of personality and complement each other perfectly. . . Pacing in this one is quick and easily flows from page to page. (This could easily be read in one sitting.) . . This is a great novel for teens (and a lot of adults too) since it is a story about self identity and getting to know and appreciate oneself. If there are more books to follow I will pick them up without question and I recommend this one.

-Shannon Pease, Addicted to Books

I have to say, I'm quite impressed by this book. It falls in two of my favorite book genres- dystopian and LGBT. . . I am a huge fan of dystopian fiction, and this is the first book I have ever encountered with such a strong queer theme. It gave the novel a very unique plot line, and will make it stand out in my mind.

Because of the lesbian motif of Swans and Klons, I found it more relatable than most other books of the same genre. I was able to more vividly experience Rubric's emotions- from love to separation and grief- since they were emotions directed at a female. I often thought of my own girlfriend and myself in their place.

As with other dystopian novels, I like this book because it was disturbing. Books with futures that are almost utopias scare me more than horror books ever could, and this one was no exception. The unique twist of genetically identical people being created only to be slaves is creepy, at the very least, though I mean it in the best way possible.

I sincerely hope that Swans and Klons is the first book in a series, or at least a two-parter. Nora Olsen has made a new fan in me with her new, queer-friendly take on dystopian fiction. Fans of books such as Beta or Uglies should check this book out.

-Jillyn, Bitches N’ Prose

This is a quick, fun read.  The characters are a little quirky and their relationship fantastic (no angst, no unwarranted fights or wafflings of affections, no love triangles, just a nice, functional relationship).

-Jessica Strider, Sci-Fi Fan Letter

There is a lot to like in “Swans and Klons.” In Salmon Jo and Rubric’s native land, “Society,” author Nora Olsen has created a future without poverty or war, yet nobody seems to have any spiritual fulfillment or real happiness either. . .  I think female tween and young teen readers will feel empowered by this world without men. Some young male readers could be less enthralled, but I think the story’s adventure–with massive explosions–is strong enough to keep them interested.

[Rubric and Salmon Jo] face danger together; they argue and annoy each other and make up, just like any other real couple–straight or gay. Author Nora Olsen has set a goal to write entertaining books where LGBTQ teens can see themselves in the starring role. In writing “Swans & Klons,” she has created a book where two girls can love each other, kiss and hold hands openly. The only pointlet I would make here is that in Society, there are no other choices. Their healthy, sharing relationship promotes a positive image for lesbian teens, but in Society, you’re either lesbian, or you’re single: it’s a totally safe world, unlike the worlds many LGBTQ teen readers inhabit.

At day’s end, “Swans and Klons” is a fast, imaginative journey through a unique fantasy world teens will love. Bonus points to Ms. Olsen for sneaking in additional depth we way-the-hell-beyond-Y-A readers can geek out over.

-Tom Sanchez, [okay, the name of this blog cracks me up. It has the very serious title “St. Petersburg Book and Film Review,” but the address is: http://booksandmoviesandcrap.com/2013/05/04/swans-and-klons-by-nora-olsen-2013/]

This book has a wonderful plot that takes readers on a journey of self-discovery, and shows what happens when the basic principal you have been taught all your life turns out to be a lie.

-Jennifer Lavoie, True Colorz


I’ve focused on the positive, but I’m honest so here are some negative excerpts from reviews as well.

Salmon Jo. The girlfriend is called Salmon Joe. Isn't a salmon a fish?. . . What made it worse was that because it was written in the third person and everyone was a girl, Olsen had to use their names to distinguish one from the other - hence even more 'Salmon Jo'. I just...I lost my patience, hearing Rubric go on and on about this fish.

-Nina, Project Read and Review

Rubric and her girlfriend Salmon Jo (and can we take a moment to comment on that name? It’s strange and I keep reading about a fish!) break into a laboratory where they discover that their world isn’t nearly as perfect as they had thought, and they decide to take action by rescuing the Klons. . . I didn’t hate the book, but it really didn’t strike me as anything more than just “okay”.

-Laureen, Ms. Bibliophile

The world Olsen creates is interesting, but never really unique. It reminds me of some very old science fiction stories and movies. The Panna’s are very pampered and sheltered, and that causes the story to feel a little like a boarding school story. . .

I think it is interesting that all Pannas have a noun and name combo, but I could never decide if the “L” was pronounced in Salmon Jo’s name or not. . . Final Verdict: An ok novel that doesn’t disappoint, but doesn’t provide a thrill either.

-Lynne, http://francesandlynne.wordpress.com

There you have it!