September 1, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Drowning is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley

Drowning Is InevitableDrowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from Random House Children's through Netgalley*

Pub. Date: September 8th, 2015

Get a copy here!

A heart-breaking story of a girl who tries to find herself in between reality and illusion, memories and projections, .... life and death. 

I have a complicated feeling about this book. At first, I was really excited to start reading this. Then halfway through the book, I found the story was too dark and the characters were too morbid to my liking. In the end, it felt like I just read a really gripping story of a confused girl trying to find her true self among layers of tragic memories, negative-judgments, and non-existence parental guidance. And when I re-read my highlights once again before writing down this review, I just realized how sad yet beautiful this book was.
This is the thing about reviewing a book: you could end up falling in love with the book you think you dislike after reading it. It’s only one of so many reasons I love reviewing books.

Drowning is Inevitable starts when Olivia, the narrator slash the female lead, began telling a story about what truly happened to her and her best-friend for life, Jamie Benton. The paragraph is written in a way that you could assume that Olivia was addressing it to someone particular. This what I think is a riveting start and is also what makes me believe what I would read more later wouldn’t be so pretty. And it is.

The majority of this book consists of Olivia’s depressing description of her deceased-mother’s―Lillian’s―past life and how it affected her life ever since it happened, with people’s scrutiny of whether she would end up remain eighteen forever like her mom. ‘Seeing’ it from Olivia’s perspective is much more depressing than the story itself because at seventeen Olivia had this morbid thought that following Lillian’s habit would somehow lead her to the biggest mystery in her life. A mystery of why her mom walked into the Mississippi river and never came back―all she did when Olivia was still three-years old, all she did on her eighteenth birthday. I know it’s just really sad that Olivia thinks and acts like that considering her very unsupportive environment (father who’s drowning in his own grief and couldn’t own up his responsibility as a parent; grandmother who takes care of her well―as Lillian) but I felt that it’s just difficult to relate to her. When Olivia was in ‘Lillian’ mode, she tended to do reckless things that only made her friends worried and people’s judgment worsened. I tried to understand her―really, but sometimes it’s hard to truly understand someone’s mindset when you never experienced what they have. Even until I went through halfway of the book, I still couldn’t figure out where I stand about her character. It’s a good thing Shalanda Stanley gradually and steadily directed us to understand where her characters actually come from.

When something awful happened to Jamie’s family, Olivia decided to keep their childhood promise made on Fidelity Street―where every promise was taken very seriously by people in St. Francisville. Along with Maggie, their other best friend, and Max, Olivia’s on-and-off again boyfriend, Olivia took Jamie away from their small town on a trip to anywhere people couldn’t find them. She was aware that what they did was totally illegal but leaving Jamie alone to deal with things on his own felt more illegal than anything forbidden in the world. So began their journey of finding safe haven where happiness was possible and actually existed for them. Olivia’s friendship with Jamie is eerily beautiful and strange. From Olivia’s description of Jamie, we could see how much Jamie meant to her. It’s actually such an interesting part to go into but it’s just unfortunate that we could only ‘see’ this portrayal of friendship from Olivia’s perspective. Majority things we knew about Jamie we got them from Olivia’s narration instead of an actual scene of him. It somehow made it looks like their friendship was unbalance to Olivia’s side. It’s as if Olivia was obsessed too much about Jamie rather than they both felt an equal amount of chemistry to each other. I guess I could say that Jamie’s character was a little too shallow especially when the book tried to include a topic of friendship involving him. What’s funny is I could actually feel more with Maggie and Max than with Jamie. It’s strange because Maggie and Max are only side characters who naturally are supposed to be easily forgotten.

It’s when Olivia was on this escapade with her friends where she found the answer of every question she had ever since forever. Olivia’s character was more reachable when she finally meets someone who could really tell her about Lillian. I guess getting a shade of light on such long-directionless search opened her eyes wide to the reality. As Olivia learned the truth and realized what she should’ve been doing all along, it became much easier to connect with her character.

Reading this book, I felt these series of frustrating feelings: dreaded, disturbed, and sad. The latter I felt somewhere near the ending because during the three-fourth of the book I was too focused on its dark and heavy situation that it’s so hard to feel sad or even shed a tear.

The ending was my best favorite part of the story. For the first time since I picked this book up, I felt like I could release the breath that I didn’t realize I’d been holding. I was anxious about how the author would end it but I’m so thankful that she managed to wrap it up very well for such a complex issue.

Drowning is Inevitable is a story about a girl who’s supposed to fight her demon but ended up fighting her best friend’s instead. It tells about a kind of friendship that could make someone have no fear doing their worst and the best because to be a friend is to give your all. But it also tells you that being a best friend isn’t about blindly doing everything for them but knowing exactly the right things to do for them. Because sometimes to be a friend is not about giving your all. Because sometimes to be a friend is about to give and to receive as well. And most importantly, whether you’ll lose yourself or find yourself through that friendship you build.

With a smooth and lyrical writing style, Drowning is Inevitable is a read that suits tastes of readers who enjoy heart-rending story of one’s journey to find herself among complexities.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


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