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REVIEW: “Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling” by Michael Murphy



Aaron and Josh come from extraordinarily different backgrounds in small town America. Aaron is the only child of a fundamentalist preacher who fears and condemns the ways of the world outside their community. Josh is a jock who can only seem to express the feelings Aaron stirs in him by tormenting Aaron about how he looks and dresses. But one day, Josh’s world is turned upside down by a simple sentence spoken by Aaron, and he decides to get closer to Aaron.

Aaron assumes it is a new form of torture, but Josh persists: first a ride home, then talking with Aaron while he does his afternoon farm chores. Then Josh persuades Aaron’s father to let him participate in a scholastic event out of town one weekend. Josh pays a huge price for Aaron to attend, but that one weekend persuades Aaron to get free of his parents and attend college.

College doesn’t solve all their problems, though. Josh is horrified when a senior on campus seduces Aaron. He can’t believe Aaron has always been gay and he missed it—and missed getting to be Aaron’s first. But when Aaron finds out his boyfriend isn’t faithful, things go from tense to worse.


I’ll get straight to the point and say Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling was not for me… but I imagine that it would suit some readers just fine.

Swan Song follows the “friends to lovers” and “unattractive geek transforms to hot dude” tropes to a tee and while both tropes are amongst my favorite, in this instance neither worked for me.  I felt like there was a lot of “telling” and no “showing”… We were told that the characters *did this*, or *said that* over and over again, and yet I never felt a connection to either of them because I wasn’t *shown* their transformation.  I didnt feel it.

I had issues with plot holes; some of which were glaringly obvious to me but perhaps didn’t seem to be of importance when writing the story.  These issues had me frustrated as I felt the story was only half planned and/or missing details which could have taken the story and it’s characters further.

Yet what I had the biggest issue with, was the robotic tone of dialogue (which is an absolute pet peeve of mine).  The conversations between the two young (highschool and then college age) MCs were not only stiff and robotic, but they used unlikely language.

Then add to those grievances the fact that the blurb essentially tells the whole story arc, and you guessed it: I was not impressed.

I note that it has received some positive reviews, so you can take my words with a grain of salt.



1501286Title: Swan Song for an Ugly Duckling
Author: Michael Murphy
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Pages: 220
Release Date: May 28, 2014
Purchase Links: Dreamspinner, Amazon, ARe

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This entry was posted on June 18, 2014 by in Contemporary, Reviewer: Sue and tagged , , .

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