Friday, 26 July 2013

Review: Jessica Park's "Left Drowning."

Review of Jessica Park's "Left Drowning."
Amazon UK:

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.

Review: Surj

This is my first experience of a book by Jessica Park and I have to say, she didn't disappoint with "Left Drowning." This book took me on such a huge emotional journey and definitely one i wasn't expecting. By around 18% I'd worked out quite a bit of the story, the pasts the characters were hiding and the connection between the two main protagonists. You would think that after this, the book would turn out to be just mediocre. I mean once you work everything out, there's nothing to give you those heart stopping, stomach dropping moments Right? OMG I was so wrong. "Left Drowning" continued to captivate me and I was desperate to see the characters make all the connections I had. I wanted to see them start putting all the parts of the puzzle together and I wanted to see what effect this would have on their relationships and the outcome of the story. Trust me when I say, Jessica park wrote this book so well that I still experienced moments where the rug was pulled out from under me, where my jaw dropped and where my heart was beating so loudly I could hear it in my head. Now that's the sign of a great book!

"Left Drowning" started off with us seeing Blythe McGuire, a college student and a drunk arriving home after one of her nights out. The state she was in and the words she spoke left me so saddened: 

I can't look at myself because I cannot stomach looking at a girl who has so little hope left, 
who is excusably weak. I am humiliated by my own inability to do better. 

She had suffered so much loss in her life, with half her family dead, a brother she hardly saw and no friends to speak of, she'd never felt lonelier. However, from the minute Christopher Shepherd walked into her life, everything changed: 

I have spent four years without touch and affection and without wanting any., 
But now there is Christopher Shepherd, the boy who has changed all the rules. 

Their immediate connection gave me such a sense of hope for Blythe and as I progressed through the book I could really see her coming out of her dark place. I was so glad that she felt at ease with Chris. She allowed herself to open up and talk about the past that had been a noose around her neck. He had saved her and for that she would be forever grateful:

" saved me. Without you I'd still be a zombie. Being with you let me feel, feel everything 
and I needed that. I remembered better with you, and you made.... you made everything real."

The day Chris and Blythe met, not only did she gain a friend but she also gained a family (his family). I fell in love with the Shepherds. They were the most caring, protective, supportive family I've ever met and they welcomed her into the fold like she was one of their own. The family reminded me so much of my own. They laughed and bickered just like the rest of us and it was hilarious to read. Each family member was so different but I fell in love with them all (well maybe I fell in love with Chris and Sabin a little bit more!!! lol). 

But as I progressed through their story, everything was not as it seemed. Cracks started appearing straight away with Chris and the more I read, the more I realised he wasn't the only one.  Each of the Shepherds was broken, finding different methods to cope. At times it wasn't pretty to read, in fact there were moments where my heart just hurt for the pain they were going through. Despite being a close family, none of them had realised just how much of an impact the past had had on one another:

"Everyone is crumbling. I can' believe it. They're crumbling, do you see it?"

Chris shouldered the blame for all of it. He was a father figure to his siblings. The sensible one. The one that sorted everything out. And as much as he selflessly saved Blythe and tried to save his siblings, he also needed saving. The guilt of his past and the need to forget made it so difficult for him to be anything more than friends with Blythe. In fact he tried so hard at times to push her away. I truly felt for him. 

Their relationship was intense at the best of times and that was without the sex. Add that to the equation and well ... that was just explosive. Holy moly those scenes were hot!!! If ever there was a couple that fit perfectly, Blythe and Chris were it. But their time was not now and Blythe knew it:

I am not upset that we’re not a couple because, however idiotic it may sound when I tell myself this, I know, I just know, that out time will come. But it’s not now. For now, we are on hold. 
And it’s not a painful place to be. It’s the opposite in fact, because not only 
do I have him in my life now, I have something to look forward to.

Each time I got excited that they were getting closer, their relationship progressing in a positive way, Chris would go and do something to push her away. It started off with little things, just keeping his distance etc but then at 63% I saw red!!!! Holy crap. My heart rate went through the roof and I could feel the anger building as I continued to read. I was furious and shattered at the same time. I hadn't expected it and neither had Blythe. It literally came out of nowhere and at a point where I was feeling OK emotionally. I was so proud of Blythe though. This girl was strong and despite everything, she moved forward. She would not allow herself to go back to that dark place. She was living and she continued to do so even though she was hurting. 

"Left Drowning" was a slower burner initially. That's not to say I didn't want to keep reading. It's more that there was a lot of scene setting, getting to know the characters etc. But please persevere because when the pace changed and the intensity suddenly went  to full throttle, I was completely and utterly gripped. My heart rate went through the roof and my nerves were shredded. How could a book that had been so quiet initially leave me a complete mess all of a sudden? As secrets were uncovered and the horrors of the past revealed, I was left an emotional wreck but I wouldn't change it for the world. 
I have rated this book 4.5 Hearts. (4 Hearts for the first part and a solid 5 Hearts for the second, more intense part). 

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