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.
It took me a while to get into the flow of the story. It starts off really slowly for me and I’m not used to that much build-up when it comes to new adult novels. So, I practically had to force myself to trudge on through the first several chapters. If I’m actually being honest, I think I only kind of hit my groove with LEFT DROWNING around the second half of the story.
It was well worth it in the end. I guess I can see the appeal. I guess the slow build-up was necessary so that, as readers, we can really get a feel for the characters before shit hits the fan. I guess that’s what made LEFT DROWNING more poignant in my eyes, the way it slowly draws and lures you in but once it got its hooks in you, you can’t help but read breathlessly through each page.
It all started out with Blythe McGuire. Right from the start, it’s evident that she’s tortured by her past. A tragic past that she can’t seem to outrun no matter what she does or where she goes. She has been so stuck in that night, the night her world collapsed around her. She isolated herself, feeling more alone and depressed each day. She’s alive. But it seems to be the only thing that she is.
Then she meets, Chris Shepherd. A chance encounter in a place that holds meaning for both of them sets the stage for the spark that starts a snowball of events that neither of them could have ever expected. Chris does not believe in fate or destiny, but Blythe can feel connected to Chris in all the ways that matter. There’s a primal connection between the two of them. She cannot explain how or why because she barely even knows the guy.
“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.”
It’s heartbreaking how they both try to deny what they’re feeling for each other. They’re both scared of what it means but they try to sort it all out the best way they knew how. Running. They’re both struggling to breathe, to come to terms with the intense feelings that have begun to grow between them. They’re drowning in them. Blythe recognizes that Chris may have his own skeletons and she’s afraid that one day, it will come out to crush whatever it is that they have. How will she breathe then? How will they both breathe if their skeletons are pushing their heads below the surface and keeping them from breaking through.
Now, LEFT DROWNING is not only about Blythe and Chris love story. I really loved how Jessica Park made the sibling relationships a huge part of the story. The family dynamics were really entertaining and fun to read. At the same time, it also provided a heart-rending tone of brokenness as the readers try to understand the dark pasts that the Shepherd siblings are trying to escape. There’s also Blythe’s broken relationship with her brother, a relationship that she is desperately trying to fix if she ever wants to move on from the tragedy that broke their relationship in the first place.
LEFT DROWNING is a whole melting pot of raw emotions, coupled with absolutely lovable but devastatingly broken characters. It's beautifully written and even more beautifully thought of. It would make you laugh one second and then get you teary-eyed the next. It's an absolutely moving story about falling in love, about surrendering control to the tides of emotions and letting yourself drown in the magnitude of that love. It's about family bonds, family bonds that are not only made through blood but also through shared experiences: the pain, the happiness... the utter completeness in being with the persons who would go through hell and back with you and for you.
“Being with you let me feel, feel everything, and I needed that. I remembered better with you, I healed better with you, and you made … you made everything real.”