Expected publication: September 8th 2015
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
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?
I must start this review by saying that I was extremely excited about reading Drowning is Inevitable and that my expectations were EXTREMELY high. Now that I have read it, I can say that though it did not quite fill my expectations, it was a solid debut that will I will remember for a while, maybe not for the story itself, but for the way it was written.
Olivia's mother Lillian killed herself just days after Olivia was born. Living in a little town has meant that Olivia has always grown in the shadow of her mother's decision. Her is like a ticking clock and people are dying to see whether her life will be as short as her mothers. Throughout her first almost 18 years old life, her father has been mostly absent, still too hurt to spend time with a physical memory of what he lost when Lillian died. Her grandmother is present, but thinks that Olivia is Lillian. Thus, Olivia's friends Jamie and Maggie and her on/off boyfriend Max have become her real family and support group. ¨
Jamie has his own problems, mainly his alcoholic and violent father. One night, Jamie finally acts against his father and the events turn deadly. In a blink of an eye. Jamie, Olivia, Maggie and Max before fugitives and they flee to New Orleans in search of a solution for their unexpected situation. There they are faced with the artistic scene, Maggie's druggie mother and difficult decisions regarding their futures.
The premise of the novel is extremely interesting and the way the story is introduced to the reader instantly caught my attention. The fact that Olivia, defined by others through the actions of her mother, gets her own voice was something I was really interested to read about, and throughout the novel, Olivia's voice, especially her inner thoughts, was one of the most interesting aspects of Stanley's debut. Once the characters reach New Orleans, I started to feel like occasionally the author had attempted to put too much in. The events turn very action packed at points, and for me, that kind of ruined the atmosphere of the book, at least for a while.
Though the pacing of the story could have been better, Drowning is Inevitable definitely deserves praise for the way it has been written. Stanley's prose is beautifully constructed, at parts lyrical, and parts melancholy. Getting a look inside Olivia's mind allows the reader to feel emotions ranging from joy to complete sadness and confusion. At points, both the subject and especially Olivia's thoughts are extremely morbid, which might not be for everyone, but which definitely fits into the overall tone of the novel.
The way Stanley writes friendships is done interestingly. The relationship between Olivia and Jamie is very codependent, which, at the moment of them being in danger, turns Olivia's future pretty grim.
What Olivia shares with Max is very different, partly due to the element of romance between the two.
Though the novel, in general, is very dark for most of its duration, there are glimpses of hope here and there. Despite the fact that the story itself was bit of a disappointment, mostly due to some poor pacing decisions, the way Stanley expresses herself and tells the story of these characters through writing is definitely worth a read.