Book Review : Learning Not To Drown by Anna Shinoda

May 20, 2013 Book review 0 ★★★★

Learning Not To Drown is a bit of a see-saw book for me, we had ups and downs but my overall impression is a very favourable one.

Book Review : Learning Not To Drown by Anna ShinodaLearning not to Drown by Anna Shinoda
Published by Simon and Schuster on 01 Apr 2014
Genres: Realistic Fiction, YA Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on Amazon

Family secrets cut to the bone in this mesmerizing debut novel about a teen whose drug-addicted brother is the prodigal son one time too many.

There is a pecking order to every family. Seventeen-year old Clare is the overprotected baby; Peter is the typical, rebellious middle child; and Luke is the oldest, the can’t-do-wrong favorite. To their mother, they are a normal, happy family.

To Clare, they are a family on the verge of disaster. Clare: the ambitious striver; Peter: the angry ticking time bomb; and Luke: a drug-addicted convicted felon who has been in and out of jail for as long as Clare can remember—and who has always been bailed out by their parents.

Clare loves Luke, but life as his sister hasn’t been easy. And when he comes home (again), she wants to believe this time will be different (again). Yet when the truths behind his arrests begin to surface, everything Clare knows is shaken to its core. And then Luke is arrested. Again.

Except this time is different, because Clare’s mom does the unthinkable on Luke’s behalf, and Clare has to decide whether turning her back on family is a selfish act…or the only way to keep from drowning along with them.

Debut novelist Anna Shinoda's raw, gritty, powerful novel cuts right to the bone and brings to life the skeletons the lurk in the closet

My Thoughts

Clare is hard-working, intelligent, diligent girl and is lucky enough to have a great bunch of friends. However, her life and her family’s life and reputation are stained by her jailbird brother. He darts in and out of their life in the same way he flits in and out of prison.

This book is a very emotional read, far more than I was expecting. Clare has to make hard decisions about her relationship with her brother whom she adores despite his many flaws. I loved the way the family dynamics were portrayed even if I found their parents unlikeable and very hard to comprehend. At the end of the day, blood is thicker than water and early childhood memories and shared experiences can blind you to a person’s true colours. This book does an excellent job of making you think what you would do and my heart was broken for Clare.

Early in Learning not to Drown, we are introduced to a character called skeleton. I was woah! Hold up there! Skeleton, who, what–the-hell? I was confused, I didn’t know if it was a skeleton to indicate there had been a murder or if it was just imagery for a family skeleton in the closet. I was confused and a bit annoyed this character. But I have to admit the bony-man grew on me and we had become amicable friends by the end of the book. Like someone I was forced to spend company with and ended up half liking! Only half though!

I have my issues with Clare’s parents too. I couldn’t understand them and they bothered me. This issue resolved itself a bit during the book as one of Clare’s friends talked about why she thought Clare’s parents behaved as they did. It helped me to understand their actions a little even if I still didn’t like them.

I finished Learning not to Drown at night and the next day as I was driving to work, I was worrying about the characters. Would Clare be able to live with her decisions, what would her brother would do? I was imagining their life in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years time! I had to remind myself they would be ok, they were only in a book not real! Always a great sign of an author’s ability to create realistic characters.

Summary : A great book about family relationships and the roles we have in a family.  Highly recommended if you like character driven books.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Simon and Schuster for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Bookish Chat : Do you forget that your characters don’t exist outside the pages of the book?  Do you worry about them as I do!


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