"Swallowing Stones" is a fictional young adult novel by Joyce McDonald, published in 2012. The two primary characters, Michael Mackenzie and Jenna Ward, must deal with haunting consequences after a mishap on Independence Day. Even though the two aren't intimately connected, one single event drastically affects each of their relationships, decisions and outlook on life.

A Tragic Shooting

The external conflict in "Swallowing Stones" occurs when Michael innocently fires his rifle into the air on the Fourth of July, proudly showcasing his weapon to his friends. The stray bullet hits a neighbor who is working on his roof and kills him. When Michael hears the report of the man's death on the radio, "the news hits him like a lightning bolt," according to Kirkus Reviews. The unfortunate shooting leads to a series of heart-wrenching events as Michael tries to deal with the guilt. His best friend convinces him to keep quiet about the incident, fearing Michael will be imprisoned for manslaughter. As a result, Michael doesn't immediately confess. Jenna, the slain neighbor's daughter, wants vengeance for the killing but struggles with her own internal issues as she tries to recover and move forward after the tragedy.