[eARC Review] Learning Not to Drown

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Title: Learning Not to Drown
Author: Anna Shinoda
Series: Standalone
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: April 1st 2014
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Source: eARC received by publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

Amazon | Indigo | TBD | Goodreads

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.

I will be honest and tell you that I wanted to read this book solely by looking at the cover. This cover is by far one of my favorites of the spring and I did not even know what the book was about until after i requested it. I will say that the hype I had for this book based on the cover may have hardened my enjoyment of this book because I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

What I did like about this book was the family dynamic and how real it felt. This was not a perfect family, and that showed on every page and with every piece of dialogue. The relationship between mother and daughter was one I loved and hated to read because it was so disconnected. I felt like the mother was not as fond of Clare as she was of her brother Luke, who as it turns out is not even close to being the perfect son her mother treats him as. The family dynamic was interesting to read because it gave us insight into the family that we might not have seen otherwise.

I also really liked Clare's relationship with her brother look, because as the story started, Luke was the shining beacon in her dreadful life. She held him up on a pedestal and would not dare take him down for any reason, even when she is suspicious of him and his actions. It is such a naive relationship that I found very interesting to read because as the reader, I knew that Luke was not the perfect brother she thought he was, and as the story went on, Clare started to figure that out as well. I was very intrigued as to why Luke was in jail for so long, and why he was so mysterious, and i will say that I liked the reveal because I was so curious, and I liked that I figured it out with Clare.

What I found very hard to get past was the mother character. She was always taking Luke's side even though she knew what he had done and why he was put in jail. She was always so hard on Clare and as a reader, reading as Clare I felt betrayed for her. I saw how much she wanted her mother to see her and take her seriously but that never happened. especially when Luke was either around or in the conversation. Sometimes I feel like hating a character is good for a book, but this time there were took many people to hate, and the mother was one that I think should have been a little more likable. I needed more character to be able to draw to, and I did not get that in this book, because there were even times where I did not like Clare because I felt like she was delibertaley being blinded to the truth that was right in front of her, and that especially frustrating.

As for the writing itself, I felt like it was quite choppy at times and because of that the flow of the story was disrupted. I felt disconnected to not only the characters but the overall arc of the storyline. I wanted to like this book more than I did, but with the choppy writing, hateful characters and not enough light at the end of the tunnel, I felt cheated.

You Might Also Like


  1. I also really love this cover, and I love that this book focuses on the complex nature of sibling relationships but it's too bad the writing didn't live up to the potential