Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Left Drowning by Jessica Park

From Amazon.com

What does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn't expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

This book is recommended for mature audiences due to strong language and sexual content.


Left Drowning was one of the most anticipated books of the summer for me.  I rarely pre-order books, but I adore Flat-Out LoveRelatively Famous and Jessica Park in general so I ordered it as soon as the link went up, and started reading it the day it was released.  I'll admit, this is a lot of pressure for any book to live up to.  While I wasn't sure at first if Left Drowning was up to the challenge because I didn't connect with the story or the characters right away, in the end, I was carried away by this heartbreaking/heartwarming story about overcoming tragedy & learning to breathe again.

When we meet Blythe, she isn't in a good place.  She lost both of her parents as well as the close connection she once had with her brother all in one tragic night, and in an effort to escape reality, she has turned to drinking herself into oblivion as the years pass by.  Just as her life is turned upside down in one bad day, it is as quickly righted enough to see a ray of hope in back-to-back encounters with two very different boys. One offers her friendship (while stealing her coffee!) and the other offers her release (while teaching her how to skip stones).  

I have read several reviews criticizing how instant the connections were between all of the characters, and while it was a little jarring, I think it's fitting with Blythe's character.  She has been feeling lost & alone.  So, the idea of friendship and the potential of love are overwhelmingly attractive to her. As fitting as it may be, it did make it a little hard for me to relate to Blythe.  Her head was such a dark & desperate place, I found it hard to want to spend time there.   

That being said, as a credit to Jessica's writing & character development, I never wanted to stop reading.  I couldn't pull myself away from the world she created...no matter how uncomfortable I may have felt reading it.  Opening this book is like dumping out a 1000 piece puzzle & putting it together without the box to guide you.  It's messy, frustrating & compelling all at the same time.  If you stick with it to the end, you get to see the beautiful picture she created...and oh how beautiful it is!  The conclusion made all of the frustration worthwhile.  

There was a certain percentage point that was all over Facebook within hours of the book's release (and even being printed on T-shirts now!) that I wish I hadn't seen prior to reading the book.  I found myself watching the percentage bar at the bottom of my kindle in anticipation of something big.  It wasn't really a spoiler, but I felt the same way I did watching a season of a TV show in which I knew one of the lead characters was going to die.  I couldn't focus on what was happening because I was too worried about what was going to happen.  I'm not sure if I really started to "enjoy" the book until after that point....when "the worst" had happened & I could just get carried away.  If you've managed to avoid seeing that number...count yourself lucky.  If you haven't, try to forget it...or somehow hide the percentage bar on your reading device!  

Left Drowning is definitely not a light summer read, but I am glad I read it & would recommend it to anyone who can get lost in a good story about hope, healing & faith.  In tone, it is much closer to Colleen Hoover's Hopeless than to Jessica Park's previous work, but there is a time for laughter & a time for tears.  You'll get a little of both in this book.

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