September 7, 2013

Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda (eARC)

Title: Learning Not to Drown
Author: Anna Shinoda
Publisher: Antheneum Books for Young Readers
Expected Publish Date: April 1, 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

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.

Learning Not to Drown is an excellent depiction of the struggle of dealing with family member and loved ones involved in in criminal activity, or with addiction issues. It's realistic but definitely mild enough to be considered young adult, and not too depressing either.

Let's get the bad stuff over with: I didn't exactly enjoy reading from Clare's perspective. She was extremely whiny, and spent half of her time complaining about how awful her life was instead of actually doing something about it. On the other hand, when she actually did step up and do something it did seem to go well. I do understand that dealing with what Clare did, especially in relation to Like as a character, would have resulted in a lot of internal struggle, but this just seemed like too much.

The book was a little slow in multiple points. I grew bored and tired of reading, and had to force myself to continue throughout the story. As far as the climax goes, it wasn't much of one. Still, the plot moved at an okay pace, with the exception of those few sections.

There was a lot of internal dialogue, but it actually worked well. We got to hear a lot of Clare's thoughts and feelings, and even though at times they could be slightly self-pitying, it helped us enter into her world more.

Many of the characters bothered me (though half of them were supposed to anyway), but I really enjoyed reading about Clare's friends. In fact, the entire book was centered around characters. It wasn't as much of a plot book, but the development--from first and secondary characters--was astounding. I found myself constantly worrying about them.

Let's talk about skeleton. From what I got, he was sort of imaginary, and Clare was the only one who could see him. He represented the family's "skeleton in the closet," the things they never talked about or revealed. I was confused by him, but ended up rather liking him in the end, even though I never fully understood his meaning.

Overall, this book had its ups and downs, but I would still recommend it.

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