May 7, 2014

Review: Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda

Title: Learning Not To Drown
Author: Anna Shinoda
Publisher: Anatheum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 352
Pages: 4.1.2014
Genre: Young Adult, Issues, Contemporary
Series: No
Source: Finished copy from

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Family secrets cut to the bone in this mesmerizing debut novel about a teen whose drug-addicted brother is the prodigal son one time too many.

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.

This is one of those books where I can appreciate what the author was trying to do, but I’m not sure I was the right audience for it.

LEARNING NOT TO DROWN is a dark, disturbing tale from Anna Shinoda about one girl’s struggle to realize that her family isn’t what she thinks. That everything she knows is a lie and yes, they are teetering on the edge of full blown disaster.  It’s that book you know can’t go anywhere but downhill and there won’t be a happy ending.

But still, I entered into this book hopeful that I could connect with it.

The book is told from Clare’s point of view, and while I liked her as a narrator (she’s vulnerable and open and innocent), I wasn’t a fan of Skeleton. Shinoda brings figurative skeletons into real life by having Clare talk to Skeleton like he is a real thing.  And maybe because I don’t have my own Skeleton (do I have some dark moments that still haunt me? Sure. ), I couldn’t get it.

In a lot of ways it felt like this book was more cathartic for the writer than anything else. I could see Shinoda fighting hard to work out her own issues with Skeleton and I applaud her for it. I just feel like it was walking a line between self-help and fiction, and that didn’t work for me.

Buy: Amazon


  1. Ummm...I'm going to say this probably isn't for me, either. I mean, everyone has their dark bits but, like you, I don't have or need a "Skeleton" figure. It does sound like it was written more for just the writer (not that that's a bad thing -- you should write for yourself).

  2. Oh. Sorry it wasn't exactly for you but I think I'm giving this a go. I really like what you said about the author using the story as a means for catharsis, I could SO use that. Thanks for giving name to something I've detected before but couldn't place. :)

  3. Sorry it wasn't as good as it's awesome cover!


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