Review–Left Drowning by Jessica Park

Left Drowning
by Jessica Park
Summary: 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 book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and sexual content.
Note: due to mature content recommended for Ages 17+

Source: I received a copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



Left Drowning was a wonderful book. I saw a handful of negative reviews just after I requested the book, so I was really hesitant to read it. Now that I’ve finished, I wish I could remember what on earth people didn’t like about the book. It is classified as a New Adult Contemporary, but it was a lot different from the New Adult romances I’ve been reading lately. It was a heart warming story about love, fate, friendship, and getting through tough issues, but it also wasn’t afraid to be steamy when the moment called for it.

I feel as if lately the New Adult genre has been leaning heavily to the steamy romance and insta-lust kind of direction, the actual storytelling has taken a backseat to the romance, or most of the storytelling is about the romance. Left Drowning had the kind of character growth that a YA contemporary would have, but with added grit and steam, instead of doing away with a lot of the character building in order to make room for the steam, if that makes sense.

Blythe was difficult to like at first, but her personal growth skyrocketed due to her making connections with new people. I loved how the personalities of the Shepherd family helped get her out of her own shell and I loved how her growth wasn’t just due to her meeting a hot guy. It was due to her meeting his family and forming friendships at the same time. And each of the Shepherd family members had their own distinct personalities, which I enjoyed. No one was a placeholder or a cookie cutter character. I loved her friendship with Chris and the way their relationship blossomed and had it’s rocky moments. I never knew what would happen next with them. The two of them together was like a first aid kit.. they healed each other, but it also kind of hurt and didn’t feel all that great, even if it helped tremendously overall, like pouring peroxide over a wound.

I liked the slowness of Left Drowning and the length. I felt like I got to really know the characters and see them grow both with and without each other in different ways. There was a ton of conflict, but none of it felt forced or done for the sake of drama. The characters had issues that made them a little broken, but the idea of having issues wasn’t overdone or over emphasized like many novels I’ve read. I believed their story, so every bend in the road took me by surprise. I needed a book that gave me something more than a direct route from boy meets girl to steamy connection happens to conflict to resolution. This book had the same map, it just didn’t take such a direct and predictable route.

The thing I really appreciated about Left Drowning was the way it tackled fate and belief. Blythe and Chris were both absolutely nonreligious. I loved that aspect because I don’t often see characters in contemporary romance who don’t believe in a God and have that not be a plot point where they’ll eventually believe. If a contemporary involves religion, it is typically because one or more of the characters are religious. I am not religious myself, so I really enjoyed seeing two characters who weren’t, either, and that wasn’t a problem. I was nervous, however, because I wasn’t sure if it would later end up being a plot device where they would realize the error of their ways. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy reading that, but for some reason, I just wanted it to be okay for them to not believe.

The story dealt with the idea of fate and I loved that Chris and Blythe were connected, were drawn to each other, and how there was a reason for that. I also loved that the story didn’t end with their fate or connection that was due to a higher power, but it wasn’t necessarily NOT due to one, either. The story left that decision or option open to a degree. Again, I just loved this for personal reasons, because I felt connected and fated to be with my husband, but neither of us are religious and that’s okay. I have never read a romance that dealt with fate, mentioned religion, and yet let the idea of fate remain open and not tied to religion. They either don’t mention religion or they tie the two ideas together. I just loved the message that it’s okay to believe in God, not believe in God, or believe in other things like fate.

A lot of negative reviews have been mentioning the graphicness of the sex scenes and the frequency of them. I’m not really sure if I’ve just been reading too many New Adult books or if those reviewers haven’t been reading enough. Left Drowning had a ton of sex scenes, but I didn’t feel bombarded by them and the most important part to me was that the book wasn’t just a giant excuse to have sex scenes, which is sort of what’s been happening with New Adult books. The fact that there is even a plot with well fleshed out characters in the midst of all the sex is a relief to me, so I don’t understand why negative reviews have called this book out in particular.

In fact, many of the negative reviews I’m seeing are bringing up all sorts of things like Blythe having issues, Chris not wanting a relationship, the way they sort of hook up and try not to add strings, the insta-love, etc. The only thing I can say is that these issues are no different from any other New Adult title I’ve read and Left Drowning would certainly not be THE book I’d pick to discuss issues in the category. I am gathering that these reviewers just don’t read New Adult romances typically, because I definitely wouldn’t call out Left Drowning as a bad example at all.

I think Left Drowning is a good example of New Adult Contemporary Romance and has a lot less of the kind of unhealthy things we have been seeing in the genre (but some of us are still loving anyway), like bad boys and dependent heroines.

Bottom Line: Left Drowning is a great New Adult Contemporary Romance with likeable characters, a well written and executed plot, and a romance I can root for. I definitely recommend it, but not to anyone who doesn’t enjoy romance, sex scenes, or swearing.

“It’s a rare thing to be with another person and not feel an obligation to fill every second with talk.”

“There’s no magical reason that we’re dealt what we’re dealt.”
 “So I have spent four years without touch and affection and without wanting any. But now there is Christopher Shepherd, the boy who changed all the rules.”

“I guess I liked the idea that... well, that there might be some kind of larger meaning to life or whatever. My mother was into that. She had a nonreligious spiritual side to her, if that makes any sense. She believed in the idea of fate and destiny. An interconnectedness and purpose in life.”

Where to Buy: Amazon. Barnes and Noble

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