August 28, 2015

Title: Drowning is Inevitable

Author:
Shalanda Stanley ♥
@shalandastanley

Expected Publication:
September 8, 2015

Publisher:
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages: 288

Genres: Young Adult ♥ Contemporary

Source: NetGalley

Summary from Goodreads: “A literary knockout with the loudest of beating hearts.”
John Corey Whaley, Printz Award winner of Where Things Come Back

Olivia has spent her whole life struggling to escape her dead mother’s shadow. But when her father can’t even look at her because Olivia reminds him of her mother, and her grandmother mistakenly calls her “Lillian,”  shaking a reputation she didn’t ask for is next to impossible. Olivia is used to leaning on her best friend, Jamie; her handsome but hot-tempered boyfriend, Max; and their wild-child friend, Maggie, for the reality check that her small Louisiana town can’t provide. But when a terrible fight between Jamie and his father turns deadly, all Olivia can think to do is grab her friends and run.

In a flash, Olivia, Jamie, Max, and Maggie become fugitives on the back roads of Louisiana. They’re headed to New Orleans, where they hope to find a solution to an unfixable problem. But with their faces displayed on all the news stations, their journey becomes a harrowing game of hide-and-seek from the police—and so-called allies, who just might be the real enemy.

Shalanda Stanley’s breathtaking debut novel explores the deep ties between legacy, loyalty, and love, even as it asks the question: How far would you go to save a friend?

Average Goodreads Rating (as of 08/27/2015): 4.02

  • Christina thought this title was heartbreaking. It goes on her third shelf. To find out why…

**Disclaimer:** An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Actual Rating and Quick Thoughts:
3.5 stars! Drowning is Inevitable perfectly captured life in all its complicated glory. It easily showed how every decision a person makes is like skipping stones across a pond, it’ll eventually ripple outward until it touches anyone and anything surrounding it. This book had heart– in the people it introduced us to, the relationships they had, the choices they made, and the place they all called home.

Also, isn’t that book cover so stunning? I think it’s a great representation of the hope and heartache that fills its pages.

The Lowdown: Four teens on the cusp of adulthood are trapped under the lofty expectations and life circumstances cast upon them. In St. Francisville, Louisiana, every kid follows in the footsteps of their parents because that’s the way it’s always been. When Olivia’s mom committed suicide on her 18th birthday, everyone in town watched Olivia as her big birthday approached like she was a ticking time bomb. Her best friend and literal boy next door, Jamie, dealt with a mom that always kept her promises, even wedding vows to an alcoholic husband that beat her and forgot their son existed. Olivia’s sometimes boyfriend, Max, had a lawyer father who expected him to be the “& Son” at his local firm, but Max’s thirst for the bottle and trigger-quick anger management issues proved to get him in trouble more times than not. Finally, there’s Maggie, who’s probably the most stable of them all, but her addiction is the love she has for lone-gone mom that loves drugs more than she loves her only daughter. They carry this baggage with them every day with their eyes set on a future they’re all sure to see, until the day that Jamie’s dad remembered he was alive and it didn’t end too well. From there, these four friends prove their loyalty over and over again as their life path takes a completely different trajectory from the plans they’d already made.

Review: I enjoyed this one, but I think I’m disappointed because I had truly hoped to love it more because of so many 5-star reviews. Let’s start off with the premise and cover because that’s what initially drew me toward the book. That cover is absolutely gorgeous, and I feel like it echoes the melancholy atmosphere of the book so well. And while the summary definitely caught my attention, the author really kept it with how she chose to open the book. I was immediately invested in Olivia’s story and eager to learn more about the events that had transpired to get us there. Ms. Stanley’s writing is probably the best thing about this book. It’s lyrical without being overworked. It flows smoothly and enriches the reader’s senses without coming across as overwhelming; you hear the characters, you feel their emotions, and you really become a part of their stories and their surroundings.

I’m not exactly sure where the book and I strayed from one another because I simply can’t put my finger on it, but it’s this . . .this something that I feel is missing. I don’t know what it is, but I believe that missing element is that magic that would have resulted in me being truly gripped by the book. Part of me wonders if it wasn’t that the author tried to give it more depth emotionally, but in some instances, I think it only made it more convoluted. Then another part of me believes that maybe it was the pacing, scene choices that the author made once they ran away. I understand that it was necessary to include some of these things to set up for how the ending would unfold, but after a while, I felt like it was dragging the story down more than it was amping up the intensity. Then again, maybe the problem lies in the characters? I guess at first, while I liked the characters and found myself sympathizing with their struggles, I never felt myself truly connecting with them. At times, I just wanted to give them a good shaking and scream at them to just pause and think for one second. But I suppose if the roles were reversed, who’s to say I wouldn’t react in the same exact manner. I know it sounds like I’m talking in riddles and being purposely evasive, but I’m trying to keep this spoiler free, so I am having to talk around a large part of the plot.

I do, however, want to wrap this up on a good note, so here’s some more book-positive opinions. I appreciated that this book showed human error; how adults, kids, friends, parents, children, and even strangers aren’t without their faults and sometimes we all make shitty decisions. On occasion, it proves to make us smarter, more vulnerable, stronger, but inevitably, we learn something from every choice– although in some cases it takes us a long time to catch on to those lessons. It also means that every now and again those lessons come at the expense of others, lives lost too soon or bright stars forever dimmed by dumb decisions.

Another factor that made the book better was the friendship of these four teens. I loved watching how they formed their connection and how this one scenario only proved to test and strengthen their bond. I liked how they each had a certain level of chemistry with each person individually, but also how they all clung to one another as a group. Somewhere along the way I must have formed some semblance of an attachment to this band of friends because I was gutted at the end. I bawled like a baby. Maybe I always knew deep down there wasn’t going to be some magical conclusion, but I don’t think I ever anticipated that exact outcome and it broke my heart completely. That being said, I really appreciated the way the author gave us and Olivia time to recover after such a devastating blow and that she left us with a nugget of hope for the future.

Rec it? Yes. I’d read this book for the friendships/relationships alone. Love in all its forms in’t always pretty, a lot of times it’s particularly messy and beautiful simultaneously like you’ll experience in this novel, but I think it’s one of the most basic things humans identify with and it bonds us all together because of it. The paths we choose because of this ingrained feeling, or sometimes in spite of it, all lead us down a road that allows us to be sympathetic with one another because we are all connected by this one tiny, yet giant monumental emotion.

If you’re looking for a raw read that will grab you quickly and hold your heart prisoner until the end, this one should be on your radar. Bonus? It was a really quick read, too.

♥ A very special thanks to Knopf Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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