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Learning Not to Drown Hardcover – April 1, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416993932
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416993933
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up—Great SAT scores, a summer lifeguarding job, and good friends are not enough to keep deep family secrets from ruining Clare Tovin's life. The high school junior is shadowed by Skeleton, a sardonic and mocking presence always reminding her that her beloved older brother, Luke, cannot be trusted. Ignoring Skeleton, Clare follows her mother's lead, at first, excusing Luke's criminal activities that land him in prison as, "being in the wrong place at the wrong time." Luke's genuine affection and caring for his little sister also endears him to readers, as he drifts in and out of town, always welcomed with open arms by Clare's mother and father, but not so much by brother, Peter. Myopic and unreasonably strict with Clare, her parents are quick to ground her for minor infractions, a double standard never enforced with the boys. Clare's lifeguarding job and friendships with Drea and Ryan, allow her some normalcy, and pride in accomplishment as she mentors a young bully who cannot swim. When Clare's mother yanks her away from her friends and job to visit her grandmother, and later withdraws all of the savings from Clare's bank account to bail Luke out of jail, the teen finally stands up for herself. The addition of Skeleton, and flashbacks, as literary devices, is clever and allows Clare to learn the truth about her stifling home life, and conflicting emotions about Luke, at a realistic pace. Multilayered and suspenseful, this novel is a page-turner.—Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

From Booklist

No closet is going to contain Clare’s “Skeleton.” Her older brother Luke’s drug and criminal transgressions guarantee that she will never be far from scorn in her small hometown. Clare’s parents and brother Peter all suffer in their own individual ways, while Luke calls the shots that define the family. Clare has strong friendships, college dreams, an affinity for swimming and knitting, and an unabashed love for wayward Luke. She also believes deeply in the power of compassion to change behavior. In her first novel, Shinoda creates a fragile, tentative world around a damaged family that struggles desperately for stability and any sense of normalcy. The omnipresent Skeleton gamely partners with Clare as she navigates her balance between home and the outside world of parties, lifeguarding, and the end of high school. Readers will be inspired as Clare develops a resilient hold on self-compassion and looks confidently ahead, waving farewell to her Skeleton and all it represents. Grades 7-12. --Gail Bush

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
The main character in this book is Claire.
How when she felt like she couldn’t go home, she had some good friends who actually cared about her.
The Life & Times of a Book Addict
Im looking forward to reading your next book.
Samantha Walker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sara VINE VOICE on April 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Clare has spent her entire life living in the shadow of her brother Luke's reputation. For years, he's been in and out of jail on various drug charges and, every time he's out, he promises things will be different, but Clare knows better than most that even prison can't banish the monster that is addiction. Despite everything Luke has put her family through, Clare's parents constantly defend him, no matter his sins. To add insult to injury, Clare and her brother Peter are constantly measured against Luke and, in their parents' eyes, always found lacking. Still, Clare loves her brother and believes this time, things might be different.

When truths about Luke's crimes surface and he finds himself, once again, on the wrong side of the law, this time putting Clare's future at risk, Clare must make a decision that might haunt her forever: turn her back on Luke and her parents or sacrifice herself and her future for family. Tackling drug addiction, family skeletons, and the necessity of breaking free of damaging familial relationships, LEARNING NOT TO DROWN is a debut novel that burns with an intensity readers won't soon forget.

It's difficult to succinctly mention the many issues Anna Shinoda takes on in LEARNING NOT TO DROWN. Which, I suppose, is understandable, because drug addiction, a family member going to prison, secrets, and lies all create a ripple effect that's impossible to simplify. Shinoda attempts to understand and create a picture of these effects with LEARNING NOT TO DROWN and have to say, she does a remarkable job.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By George Hillinger on April 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
A well written novel about a girl coming to terms with her family demons, the largest one being a brother who she loves that is constantly in and out of prison. Shinoda does a wonderful job of character development and creates a story that we all can relate to on one level or another; family tension and the struggles that it creates growing up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Life & Times of a Book Addict on April 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I sort of felt like I knew where the story was going to go before I started it, I just didn’t know all of the particulars. Even so, the story still found a way to grab me.

Learning Not to Drown is told from Clare’s point of view and occasionally there are flashbacks to Clare’s past. Memories of times shared with her oldest brother Luke whom she adored at the time. Memories of incidents occurring that forever change her family’s life. A life that is now somewhat tainted because of the actions of Luke.

Luke is Clare’s older brother; he has made some particularly bad decisions and has had to pay for them. On more than one occasion. He never seems to learn his lesson. He is constantly in and out of trouble.

Clare is a hardworking prized student; she is awarded scholarships and can basically go to almost any college of her choosing. She is a good kid. Yet her parents, more so her mom than her dad, treats her and her other brother Peter as if they were the ones who kept doing bad things.

Her parents are…unbelievable is the only word I can think of at the moment. The way her mom dotes on Luke so, even after everything he has done is crazy. I wished I could understand their logic.

The more her mom kept trying to help Luke and wanting him to change, the more it made me hope for Clare. Hope that she would be able to stand up for herself and step away from the shadow and skeletons of her brother/family and start fresh.

At times when I was reading it, I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about it. Overall I ended up liking it. I liked seeing Clare’s internal struggle with her family. How when she felt like she couldn’t go home, she had some good friends who actually cared about her.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gina on April 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
We often hear the term career criminals. We don't really have much compassion for them and just want to lock them up and throw away the key. Some do some pretty horrendous crimes.

What we don't do is stop to think about the family they leave behind.
That is exactly what this book is about. Luke is a what they consider a career criminal. He has been in and out of jail since he was a teenager. His parents have always been on his side 100%, no matter what. Luke has a younger brother and sister that are often emotionally put aside for Luke's needs by their parents.

The main character in this book is Claire. She grows up with her oldest brother in and out of jail. She was not told until she was 17 what crimes Luke the brother she looks up to, actually committed.

This book touches on emotions, feelings and situations we don't really think about when we think of criminals. I felt myself feeling sorry for the family not for Luke. Luke choose to do these things, his family did not.

This is the debut novel by this author. I loved it and hope she writes more. I read this book in 2 days. I just couldn't put it down. I give it a 5 out of 5.
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