Monday, April 7, 2014

Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda

Publication: April 1, 2014

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

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 that lurk in the closet.

I sort of felt like I knew where the story was going to go before I started it, I just didn’t know all of the particulars. Even so, the story still found a way to grab me.

Learning Not to Drown is told from Clare’s point of view and occasionally there are flashbacks to Clare’s past. Memories of times shared with her oldest brother Luke whom she adored at the time. Memories of incidents occurring that forever change her family’s life. A life that is now somewhat tainted because of the actions of Luke.

Luke is Clare’s older brother; he has made some particularly bad decisions and has had to pay for them. On more than one occasion. He never seems to learn his lesson. He is constantly in and out of trouble.

Clare is a hardworking prized student; she is awarded scholarships and can basically go to almost any college of her choosing. She is a good kid. Yet her parents, more so her mom than her dad, treats her and her other brother Peter as if they were the ones who kept doing bad things.
Her parents are…unbelievable is the only word I can think of at the moment.  The way her mom dotes on Luke so, even after everything he has done is crazy. I wished I could understand their logic.

The more her mom kept trying to help Luke and wanting him to change, the more it made me hope for Clare. Hope that she would be able to stand up for herself and step away from the shadow and skeletons of her brother/family and start fresh.

At times when I was reading it, I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about it. Overall I ended up liking it. I liked seeing Clare’s internal struggle with her family. How when she felt like she couldn’t go home, she had some good friends who actually cared about her. I wasn’t kept on the edge of my seat or anything, but I did find the story to be realistic, emotional, and interesting. I think the author did a nice job of trying to tie several serious topics together like drugs, family secrets, and lies to create a unique and realistic story.

RATING: 4 out of 5.

**I received this book on behalf of the Publisher in exchange for nothing but my honest opinion. Thank you**


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1 comment:

  1. I'm just not sure I want to read a book with parents that make me super angry/frustrated. I think I would have to be in the right mood. Great review!