Spoiler-free Advance Copy review.
This book was magic! A well crafted story that built slowly and quietly in intensity. Jessica Park’s writing is beautifully detailed and painfully honest. Left Drowning sneaks up on you. One moment you’re fine, the next moment you can barely breathe.
I was emotionally invested in this story right from the book’s dedication. I’m going to share it with you here because it’s just so beautiful and truly sets the tone for the entire story:
“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.”
I love books that surprise me and go down paths that I’m not expecting. On the surface, this is the story of a girl who is essentially drowning in the tragedy of her past, of losing everyone she’s loved in one way or another, and who is unable to let go of the pain. Then she meets this guy and for the first time since her life shattered, he makes her feel safe and whole and begins to help her heal. But the more she finds out about him, the more she realizes that despite his strong and protective exterior, he too is hurting just as much on the inside and is deeply scarred by his past… and maybe, she might have to save him too.
“I wish he wouldn’t look at me, I also wish he’d never stop.”
“We both have pasts full of pain and… he emanated survival in the way I want to.”
“I could breathe him in forever. I could fall in love forever.”
The first half of this book is very, very slow building… even sweet at times. It wasn’t gripping at first but it was totally engaging — taking the time to connect you with the characters. I loved that it was about more than just the romance though, it was also just as much a story about family — about strong, beautifully resilient sibling bonds. The sibling dynamics in this story were just gold! Sabin! Oh gosh, everyone should have a Sabin in their lives <3
Blythe and Chris fell in love quietly. But as drawn to each other as they were, something was holding Chris back and she couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Despite their undeniable connection, he kept pulling away.
“I went too far with you and I shouldn’t have. I’m not really boyfriend material.” …
“Did you ever consider that I’m not girlfriend material?”…
“Yes, you are. You’re outstanding girlfriend material. I’m the one who’s all kinds of fucked up. Trust me.”
But I loved that despite their strong physical connection and the magnetic pull between them, the first thing to develop between them was really just their bond. It was something stronger than friendship, a very deeply rooted connection that went beyond anything romantic.
This isn’t about sex or lust. It’s about closeness, and safety…“You’ll stay?”“Always,” he says.
As a reader, I’m usually all about the upfront commitment in a relationship but I could feel in my heart from the very start that they were right for each other and was just happy to watch their relationship develop slowly.
Then out of no where, this book went from quiet to INTENSE!! There was this scene in particular where it really just slammed right into me. Everything about it – the vivid descriptions, the character dynamics, the intensity was just absolutely powerful and felt so real.
Both Blythe and Chris were deeply scarred by their pasts in different and yet lasting ways. I loved that they each understood each other fell in love with the person who their scars had shaped them to be. It was real. They were shaped by their scars and their pain but were healed by their love and their bond.
But I got so comfortable in the gentle pacing of the first half of the book that the intensity really snuck up on me. One minute I was fine, the next minute I swear to God I felt my heart break. Literally break. It blind sided me and was so fucking painful I felt it in my soul. Ice flooded my veins in an instant. I teared up. My heart was in my throat. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Seriously.. bring tissues, guys.
As it continued, my heart was slowly ripped out. I felt sick to my stomach and this is a real tribute to Jessica Park’s writing because without the slow build up that had first bonded me to the characters, what happened would never have hit me this hard.
And then, just when I thought my heart was hurting as much as it possible could, it shattered. Fucking shattered. I don’t even have words for it. I was too hurt to cry. In shock, pain, betrayal. I felt everything that Blythe felt. This wasn’t how the story was supposed to go.
Few books have made me feel this helpless before as a reader just watching the story careening out of my control down the wrong path. I just read chanting in my mind “this can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. This can’t be fucking happening!”
So I seriously can’t tell you how relived felt when things began to get fixed. Ohhhhh the relief. I clung to every shred of hope.
“I want more than anything for the power of us together to be stronger than the power of the damage. If I still believed in God, in anything, I would be praying.“
I loved the way it all came together in the end. I’ve sat and thought about it a little now and I realize that I had all the pieces of the story all along. But just the way your mind keeps you from remembering certain memories before you’re ready, I think my mind was holding me back from piecing everything until then end. There were definitely elements that I suspected but I never realized just how entwined everything was.
This book deals with heavy themes and heart breaking realities highlighting the damage done and marks left by an abusive home. But it also shows the beautiful resilience of siblings bonds, and the salvation and healing power of love — of loving someone unconditionally not in spite of their scars but because of who their scars had shaped them to be.
“This is all sorts of fucked up.”
“I know, baby. I know. But the best kind of fucked up.”
Left Drowning will touch your heart and take you on a powerful and beautifully crafted journey of love, loss, survival and healing.
It has a happy ending, guys. Please don’t be scared off by the intensity I was talking about. This is an absolute must-read! There’s a little bit of everything in it — humour, heart ache, healing… and most importantly, a happy ending 🙂
“What are you doing?”
“Loving you,” he says simply. “If you’ll let me.”
“Always. God, always.”
Left Drowning lived up to my every expectation. Everyone should put this book on their radar!
Rating: 5 stars. Standalone romance.