Learning Not to Drown – book review

Learning Not to Drown

Learning Not to Drown is the enthralling and spine-tingling novel by Anna Shinoda.

Clare is a hardworking and intelligent 17 year-old who’s lucky to have great friends. But her older brother Luke taints the reputation of her family and her life. Luke has been in and out of Clare’s life, the way he’s been in and out of prison. Clare loves Luke, despite his flaws. So when Luke comes home again, Clare wants to believe that this time will be different. But when the truths begin to arise, everything Clare has ever known will crumble. Then Luke is arrested. Again.

Except this time is different. Clare’s mother does the unthinkable and Clare needs to decide whether turning her back on her family is selfish, or the only way to keep her from drowning along with them.

I was captured by this story from the very first page. It was thrilling and entirely alluring. Sometimes I find it hard to dive straight into books that I haven’t heard much about before. For me, this was on of the easiest books I’ve read in that sense. But it wasn’t all easy. This book was hard, not to read it, but it was hard to not read it. The first page captured me, the first chapter pulled me in, and I finished the last page feeling amazed. I feel like I should just say it outright – this was one fantastic book.
The characters were vibrant and unique in every single way. I loved all of them, and even loved to hate a few. Clare’s family is definitely an extraordinary one… and not in a good way. There’s 17 year-old Clare, the youngest of her family and the overprotected one, Peter is the rebellious middle-child, and Luke is the oldest, the favourite – the ‘Golden Child’ as my family refers to them. To their mother, they are the perfect, happy family. But we soon learn that this family is very different to most other families. Luke has been in and out of jail for as long as Clare can remember. In the beginning of this book, I really wanted to know why he was in jail. However, when I read on I realised that this was the suspense of the book. It took me close to 300 pages to find out why he had been to prison so many times. By then, I was practically begging for answers, willing to do anything to satisfy my curiosity. In the end, I got a very satisfying answer. I loved how we as readers don’t know who Luke really is until the end of the book because it keeps us guessing. Was he really just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is he really a nice guy? Or is he someone more evil than Clare could ever imagine? Clare adores her brother, despite his many flaws and she desperately wants to believe that Luke’s actually a good person who simply made some silly mistakes.
I loved getting to know what Clare’s life was like. Her mother made me so angry though. She seemed like a perfectionist and a clean-freak, always repolishing her ornaments and making Clare scrub parts of the house until they gleamed. She would do so many things that made me hate her so much. For most of the book, she seemed just one-dimensionally villainous. It was only at the end of this book that I realised there might have been a reason as to why she was this way. Maybe she had skeletons of her own in the closet… Speaking of skeletons, this brings me to talk about Clare’s Skeleton. Skeleton gets introduced to us in the first chapter. At first, I was really confused as to who Skeleton was. Was he an actual skeleton? Could only Clare see Skeleton? I soon found out that Clare’s skeleton refuses to stay in the closet. He follows her around and demands to be noticed. All Clare wants is a normal life, but that’s hard for her when Skeleton is almost always around. Skeleton was almost an imaginary friend. Although it took me a while to get used to the idea of Skeleton, I ended up loving it.
There was a lot of character development in this book that I really enjoyed reading. One of the characters that I felt grew the most in this book was Peter, one of Clare’s brothers. In the beginning, he seemed a bit unpredictable. I really didn’t trust him. However, I ended up really liking him. All of the minor characters were extremely interesting and there weren’t any boring characters in this book at all. I was surprised to see that there was hardly any romance in this book. Or course, there was a little bit, seeing as Clare is a teenager. There’s a lot less romance than I’m used to reading, but it was refreshingly different.
There was something really important I learnt from reading this book. Before reading it, I never really imagined what it would be like for someone to have someone he or she knew in prison. I had never even thought about the fact that people in prison do have families and do have people they love. It was a real eye-opener to how the family of criminals can be treated. Clare is treated differently multiple times in the book because of her family and because her brother has been to prison. I really enjoyed getting to understand what life is like for people like Clare and her family.
I absolutely loved reading this book. I actually finished it in just one day! It was so gripping and practically impossible to put down. I’d give Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda a score of 9.5 out of 10. I’m really looking forward to reading more that Anna writes. I definitely recommend it!

A huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!