Left Drowning

Author: Jessica Park 
Pages: 399 
Publisher: Skyscape 
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): 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.

My Summary: Ever since her parents died, Blythe has barely been able to keep herself from drowning in grief. She goes through the motions every day, hardly aware of time passing around her.

Until the day she meets Chris Shepherd. Somehow, he seems to understand exactly what Blythe is going through. Little by little, he and his brothers and sister accept Blythe into their family and show her how to be whole again. 

But problems arise as Blythe begins to fall for Chris, who can't seem to shake his own demons. Unfortunately, Chris's inability to let Blythe in may mean both their hearts will be broken before anyone is able to tread water again. 

My Thoughts: This book was like a punch to the gut. The raw emotion packed into every page had me wide-eyed and sleep-deprived late into the night, refusing to put the book down until I found out what happened to Chris and Blythe. I've never read anything of Jessica Park's before, but after having my (emotional) ass kicked by Left Drowning, I think I'll be grabbing the rest of her novels as soon as possible. 

Trust me, you're going to be needing a box of tissues if you decide to check out Left Drowning. A lot of the relationship dynamics are very intense, and the novel does delve deep into a situation of domestic abuse and how it affects those involved even after it's over. Chris's family was very tight-knit and supportive, but each of them carried their own emotional scars, and more often than not these led to an inability to form connections with those who didn't share their past experiences. I found the author's approach to the Shepherd family's abuse to be jarring and incredibly realistic, bringing me to tears more than a few times. There was a line near the end in which Sabin - Chris's brother - is drunk and reminiscing about two dogs his father used to abuse that made me sob like a little baby. This book is not for the faint of heart. 

Blythe was an easy character to relate to. Her life was a mess and she had no idea what she was going to do, having been so focused on just getting through the day for so long. I loved the way that Chris slowly pulled her out of her funk, despite his frustrating behaviour (however warranted). 

Basically, I wanted to wrap the entire Shepherd family in a bear hug and never let go. 

This book was so, so powerful. I did not expect the amount of intensity that I found within, but it was there in spades. And I think one of my favourite things was the fact that even though Blythe and Chris comforted each other and tried to heal one another, ultimately they each had to figure things out for themselves. They couldn't use one another as a distraction or a bandage - they brought each other happiness but it was not enough to cancel out the sadness. I loved the realness of this, because often with contemporary YA or NA the ultimate goal is getting the two main characters to their happily ever after with one another. Everything seems to be magically fixed once this happens, no matter how messed up the characters were before they fell in love. I'm so glad that Jessica Park showed that finding love can help, but you can't expect the person to fix you. 

Final Thoughts: Oh my gosh, if you haven't gotten the message from my long, rambling review: CHECK OUT THIS BOOK. Okay? Hug it close and cry into the pages and never ever let it go. 

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