Left Drowning by Jessica Park
Published by Skyscape on July 16, 2013
Genres: Abuse, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, New Adult, Romance, Sociology
Amazon • Goodreads
What does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?
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.
*This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and sexual content.
Note: due to mature content recommended for Ages 17+
This book took me by surprise. At first I thought it was going to be good. I knew it would probably be sad. I guessed I would probably cry. What I didn’t count on was my emotional attachment to every character. I didn’t know that I would become so invested in this story that I would have to walk away from it to collect myself. I didn’t realize how close to home certain aspects of this book would hit. I also didn’t count on loving it so much. There were times when I couldn’t breathe. I literally sat there holding my breath. It was that overwhelming. That haunting. That beautiful. This is a story about healing, forgiveness, love, and for pushing yourself towards LIFE every single day.
“This book is for everyone who has survived. You are not broken. You can love and be loved, despite what may feel like the eternally brutal nature of the world. Even when you’re drowning and so far under, there is always time to reach for someone who will teach you how to breathe again.”
Blythe is struggling to survive. Her parents are gone. Her brother in another state. It’s her last year at college and she’s just barely making it through. Then Sabin barrels into her life. This chance encounter throws her off course and she makes a decision right then and there.
“Today I will be able to say that I did something unexpected.”
This is how she ends up meeting Chris. What a beautiful soul this man has. He’s been through something that no one should ever have to endure and yet he’s surprising well adjusted. However, the pain felt by both Blythe and Chris is palpable. Together they know they make sense and apart they are broken. They can heal each other…maybe…
“At least one thing is certain: Chris and I are inextricably connected. Do I have factual reasons to know this? Proof? Assurances? No None.
Some people believe in God; I believe in Chris.”
What I really loved about this book was the slow build. Yes there was an instant connection between the two but no they didn’t just fall instantly in love or in bed. The relationship took time to build. It felt real to me. If you come from a past that involves any sort of loss/dysfunction/abuse whatever, then you know that relationships are not easy. Sometimes they don’t happen at all. Breaking down those walls and working through your demons is not an easy thing. Letting someone love you when you don’t love yourself is even harder.
“I thought he was just like me.”
“I thought we would find our way into a love with no return.”
“I thought we were an absolute.”
Chris helps Blythe to breathe again. He shows her how to live through the pain, to accept it, to own it, but to not let it consume you. But for Chris it’s not that easy. His pain is much different. He’s just not ready to move on.
“You are the great love of my life that I’m never going to have.”
I haven’t even begun to talk about the other characters. Normally, I might mention one or two because they’re funny or add something great to a book. This is by far the first book I’ve ever read where I loved every single side character. I hate to even call them side characters. I know Blythe and Chris are considered the main but this group boy they are so integral to the story. I know this book wouldn’t have been the same without each and every one of them.
Chris’s siblings are Sabin, Estelle, and Eric. Sabin might just be my favorite of the bunch. He’s charismatic and boisterous and funny. He’s also battling his own demons. He’s there for Blythe in a way that no one else is. She depends on him and he her. They anchor each other. Then you have Estelle who is strong and fiercely independent. She’s beautiful and she’s also the only who believes in God. Her faith is what helps her to cope yet she too is broken. Eric is Estelle’s twin brother. He’s shy, sweet, and quiet yet also strong. Zach is Eric’s boyfriend and you know they are good for each other but Eric too is broken. James is Blythe’s younger brother. He goes to another school and their relationship is complicated. There is a lot of blame and guilt plaguing them because of the circumstances surrounding their parent’s death. Seeing what happens between the two was very special for me.
Each of these characters have a profound affect on this story. You may only find one that touches you, maybe all of them will, but I know you will connect to one of them.
“You said something last night that was completely wrong. I could never touch anyone the way that I touch you. And I will never forget falling in love with you. Don’t forget that.”
“And this is how we say good-bye.”
The story will grab your heart and squeeze and squeeze until you think you can’t take anymore. It’s like this until the very last sentence. You will fall in love. You will want a happy ending for all of them.
Left Drowning has everything you could ever want in a book. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Definitely in my top 10 from the last 2 years.
Jessica Park has written a story so deep and powerful that there is no way you will be able walk away the same person. I know I’m not.