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.
Note: due to mature content recommended for Ages 17+
Hello lovely people, it’s Manu here. Since I read Flat-Out Love I kinda developed an obsession with Park’s books, but yeah that’s normal for me, and her books are really great so. Let me start by saying that the summary really doesn’t do the book justice, it’s so much more complicated and deep than that, I’m gonna try to explain why.
It’s natural to want to connect with other people, I guess. Except I don’t want to. Not really. Which must be why I don’t have any real friends. But I drink and play the role, holding out hope that self-fulfilling prophecies exist, and that I might make a connection and feel whole again if I pretend long enough. The act is fun for me initially, yet it leaves me even worse off by the end of the night, when reality hits and my intolerable loneliness engulfs me.
Blythe lost her parents a few years back and she’s now going through college in a daze, she’s not meeting new people, she studies and mostly stays alone and sometimes goes to party looking for that numbness that people often find in alcohol. She’s not comfortable around people because she has too many secrets she’s not ready to share, and really she doesn’t want to share. Until the Shepherds hurricane into her life.
“Cheer up.” He leans in and kisses me on the cheek. “You’re beautiful when you smile.” And then the whirlwind that is Sabin exits the building, stage right. I shake my head. That was…that was… That was kind of nice. In fact, I am noticeably moved.
Sabin storms into this coffe shop, sits in front of Blythe, steals her coffe, and decides that they’re friends now. He’s an actor, so truthfully to that, when he’s in a scene it’s impossible not to stare at him with your mouth hanging open. He talks a lot, and Blythe doesn’t feel uncomfortable, but she feels drawn to him, he’s magnetic, and she’s really cheered up by him. So, instead of going back to her room, like she’d usually do, she goes by the lake where a guy is skipping stones, and Blythe watches until they start talking.
Chris kneels down for a moment, picks up a stone, and slips it into his pocket. “What’s a little risk now and then, huh?” He rushes past me and turns so that he is walking backward, facing me as he talks. “It makes you feel alive. It brings you crashing into the here and now. Keeps you alert and grounded.”
We soon find out that Chris and Sabin are brothers (no, no love triangle, don’t worry!) and we meet their other siblings, Estelle and Eric, twins. So, Blythe gets herself all mixed up with this family, every one of them is unique and so complicated (but you’ll find that out later) and Blythe has a different relationship with each one. Chris is the older brother, and he’s taking care of them all, he’s very responsible, but he’s also funny and so very sweet *swoon*
“Your parents died. Your world fell apart.” I nod. He puts his hand on my cheek. “You were left drowning.” I nod again. “And you’re struggling to breathe.” I am. It’s a constant struggle to stay near the surface. I have just enough air to stop me from totally going under, but not enough to thrive. “So do it. Breathe. Just breathe.” He turns up the volume and strokes my hair.
There’s attraction between Blythe and Chris but neither one of them is ready or wants a relationship, they don’t want complicated, so what builds between them is a very strong bond, a friendship deep and real, they get each other, they know how to make the other feel better, and Chris helps Blythe getting through this darkness surrounding her. I really wanted them to be together since the beginning, because, come on, they’re adorable together, but this was definitely the better path for them. I really enjoyed watching this thing (I don’t even know how to describe it) develop so slowly, it felt more realistic.
And 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.
Chris and Blythe believe in each other, but his past is keeping him back, and while Blythe is sure that their moment will come, he doesn’t want it.
I am hit with the enormity of the impact this family is having in my life. They, and mostly Chris, are saving me. Or teaching me to save myself.
That is what I loved the most. Blythe obviously needed help since the beginning, but I loved that the help this family gave her was how to help herself, every one of them taught her something essential so that she could heal and go back to living a normal life with her brother (he’s not very present in the first half of the book but he’s more around later).
I wish that I could be somebody else, but what’s happened to me is inextricably part of who I am. Who I will always be.
The second half of the book is really intense, and there are a lot of interesting topics that are dealt with really brilliantly. We’re given a lot of clues early in the book, but even if I thought I had it all figured out, I only found out in the end how every piece fitted together. But don’t let this intensity scare you, Park’s style and characters are funny and they’re gonna make you laugh even during the most serious parts, and they won’t leave once you turn the last page.
“You’re just… You’re everything.”
I highly recommend Left Drowning, so let me know if you pick it up!