Left Drowning – Jessica Park

What To Expect:

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.

This is our second from Jessica, after Flat Out Love, which was also set in American university life, and a top read. This one also works for an older audience, but some aspects reminded me of YA sensation Twilight, without all the mormon chastity: Chris and his siblings had echoes of the Cullens (Estelle especially, she was a bit Alice) and a lack of real parents; they were rich and aloof from other students; also Chris let his hang-ups get in the way of things with Blythe and at one point devastatingly abandoned her. I imagine no serious author would aspire to Stephenie Meyer comparisons, but those books are a guilty pleasure of mine (despite me wanting to slap the heroine throughout all 4 books), and Left Drowning is a better quality read for an older audience- with a not-at-all-annoying heroine!

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Blythe is a mess; she’s struggled through the previous four years since the accident that took her parents and badly injured her brother, and still feels responsible. Now in her last year of university she meets someone who enables her to face up to her demons. Blythe is surprisingly self aware, she knows she has to get back out there and heal, but is alone and struggling.

Kooks for your Kindle?– Chris has all the makings of the kind of guy a lonely college girl would fall for; charismatic, intense, attractive, understanding, controlling, and he claims to be no good for her. He’s older than his years, but is quite childish in the way he tries to push Blythe away. The second Shepherd brother Sabin is the dramatic one of the family, an aspiring actor who drinks too much and becomes a great friend and ally to Blythe. The youngest siblings: Estelle is friendly, generous, stylish, swears like a sailor but is a devout bible-basher. Her twin brother Eric is quiet and watchful, devoted to his boyfriend Zach. All four of the siblings have sustained different damages- but how? Blythe has a younger brother of her own, James, they’ve lost the ability to relate to each other- but the time has come for some honesty and to revisit their childhood home.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– There’s a feeling of inevitability between Blythe and Chris; they are clearly each other’s lobster. The cool atmosphere of the book is gorgeous, whether at their wintery college town on a lake, or at Blythe’s inherited summer house in Maine.

Nookie for your Nook?– Very steamy. No Twilight comparisons there.

Evaluation of your eBook?– It’s quite an heartfelt ride and easy to lose yourself in it. I probably would have read it all in one sitting if I hadn’t been so tired when I started it, although it’s a bit lengthy for a single outing. It’s easy to empathise with the characters straight off, and they all go on an epic journey in the couple of years covered. Blythe quickly becomes part of the Shepherd family, changing all of their lives. Although its characters are all in their early twenties it was quite a grownup story and can definitely be recommended for older readers. The themes of loss, guilt, passion, abuse and addiction give it a mature feel. I found the very end a tiny bit cheesy, and must confess to working out the twist- but I vastly enjoyed it nonetheless, it’s a very satisfying rollercoaster of emotions. Jessica is such a great author with amazing descriptive powers and is able to build great suspense with the mysteries gradually playing out.

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for £1.99, although the price varies, occasionally 99p so click the price for the latest.

US: Amazon for $3.99.

Flat-out Love – Jessica Park

Here’s something different, in theory it could be classed as YA, but it felt more grown up than that. Julie is leaving her midwestern small town for college life in Boston- but she’s totally ready. Armed with confidence and keen to learn she dives right in- but a problem with her accommodation is resolved by her unexpectedly boarding with an old friend of her Mother’s, Erin Watkins and her family. Erin and Roger are both academics, and distant from their children. Matt is a few years older than Julie, studying hard and taking care of his his thirteen year old sister. Celeste is unusual, she doesn’t fit in with her school friends and has an unhealthy dependence on a flat cardboard cutout of her other elder brother Finn who’s away travelling. Julie, who is studying psychology, quickly becomes an invaluable part of the family and makes a project out of socially integrating Celeste to prevent her getting thrown out of school, but it’s hard when the family won’t tell her more about Celeste’s history. When Julie starts communicating with Finn online she doesn’t get any answers- but she does fall in love.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Regular readers will know strong female leads are appreciated here, and we have a good one in this tale. Julie is tough, bold, resilient and positive, surprisingly strong for an eighteen year old. Perhaps this is why the book felt older than a YA. The only time she acts like a teenager is on a visit to her mother- but then it’s easy to regress on a visit back home. She doesn’t have your typical college experience, she makes a few friends, dates a nice guy for a little while and socialises somewhat, but most of her time is taken with studying and working on helping Celeste.

Kooks for your Kindle?– The Watkins family are a mess, the aforementioned distant parents not helping matters. Put it this way, they are all stunned one night when Julie cooks them a meal and they don’t have to order take-out. All of them are highly intelligent and academic, but this does not explain the underlying tensions between them and Celeste’s mental state. Matt is the only one whose behaviour resembles normal, but he’s under a lot of pressure from his parents and studies. Seth is the guy that Julie meets in a coffee shop and dates for a while, but Julie’s focus is elsewhere.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– Seeing Boston through Julie’s eyes is great, a small town girl keen to learn goes to one of the great college towns in the States. But the Watkins’ home life has the strongest portrayal here.

Nookie for your Nook?– Julie does steam up Facebook at one point.

Evaluation of your eBook?– This was not at all what I had expected, and I loved it. The underlying mystery kept me gripped, and while I guessed at part of it, that didn’t ruin it. The heroine may be very young but she’s so grown up and smart that the story works for older audiences too, the subject matter helps this too. The dialogue is witty and Julie’s personality is quite sharp. Celeste’s issues were extremely well done and fascinating from a psychological perspective. Apparently there is a companion piece to this, but don’t click here or look into it before you’ve read this one first, or you’ll spoil the ending!

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: In May I picked it up on special for 99p, but it’s currently £3.49, click here for the latest price from Amazon.

US: Amazon for $3.99, can’t be found on Kobobooks at present.