This book hijacked my sleep and gave me bad dreams, so clearly my brain was still trying to process it long after I though I was done with it. I think the thing that stuck with me the most was the overwhelming melancholy that permeated every chapter in this book. This is aptly titled because there really was no way to avoid drowning in the hopelessness of the situations. However, as depressing as it was, I think the eternal flame of hope must have been burning because I enjoyed it as I read. I gave it four stars for its modern Southern Gothic feel.
Olivia has spent her whole life struggling to escape her dead mother’s shadow. But when her father can’t even look at her because Olivia reminds him of her mother, and her grandmother mistakenly calls her “Lillian,” shaking a reputation she didn’t ask for is next to impossible. Olivia is used to leaning on her best friend, Jamie; her handsome but hot-tempered boyfriend, Max; and their wild-child friend, Maggie, for the reality check that her small Louisiana town can’t provide. But when a terrible fight between Jamie and his father turns deadly, all Olivia can think to do is grab her friends and run.
In a flash, Olivia, Jamie, Max, and Maggie become fugitives on the back roads of Louisiana. They’re headed to New Orleans, where they hope to find a solution to an unfixable problem. But with their faces displayed on all the news stations, their journey becomes a harrowing game of hide-and-seek from the police—and so-called allies, who just might be the real enemy.
Shalanda Stanley’s breathtaking debut novel explores the deep ties between legacy, loyalty, and love, even as it asks the question: How far would you go to save a friend?
The book centers on best friends who each have a different kind of threat hanging over their heads all the time, but it also focuses on four very different characters who all represented a different facet of conflict that teenagers experience, be it as a friend, a lover, a daughter, a son, or just as a kid struggling to see their life beyond high school. I think there is at least one character that readers will feel some kinship with. The small town setting felt familiar in its judgement and embrace, and I think it was almost a character unto itself. The plot moved quickly, and it was paced to delve into the complicated relationships the characters had with each other, but also to highlight the urgency and desperation of the situation. I could accept the resolution for all of the characters except for Olivia. I felt like she didn’t get the ending she really needed. I’m not sure she won’t drown again in a few years, and I thought that might have been the real tragedy in this story. I think, though, that is kind of the point – in the end, staying afloat is a choice that only you can make. This moody read will appeal to YA readers of contemporary fiction, but it will be a little harder for readers who absolutely need a picture perfect ending.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.