Going Under by S. Walden

Going Under - S. Walden

New Adult is a new (at least to me) subgenre. I’m guessing it’s evolved in order to snag those readers aging out of YA novels or who just want something a little spicier and edgier with characters who are 18+. It makes sense to me. I would NOT want my fourteen year old reading some of the things in this book so I appreciate the “New Adult” tag even if I do think it’s a little silly. Books about 18+ year olds with lots of violence and sex have always existed but they’ve been shelved with their fiction counterparts. I guess “New Adult” will make them easier to find which may be a good thing but only if they’re all as well written as Going Under.

This is not an easy read. It’s a painful journey of grief, working through mistakes that just can’t be fixed, retribution, bravery and learning to forgive yourself and others. It’s sad and snarky, cruel and sweet, heartbreaking and heartwarming. The characters, all of them, are imperfect and I really loved it.

Brooke is drowning in a world shadowed by grief and guilt. Her best friend Beth recently committed suicide and Brooke knows what pushed her over the edge. The two were estranged because Brooke made a selfish mistake that she can never take back but she is determined to find retribution for Beth. She makes it her mission to expose the truth, even if it means putting herself in harm’s way.

Needing a fresh start where no one knows her reputation, she moves in with her dad and enrolls in Beth’s old high school as a sort of penance. She wants to be reminded every day of Beth’s presence. Almost immediately she meets Cal, the boy she is certain ruined Beth. When she learns that he and his swim team buddies are part of some secret rapey sex club she plans to bring him down. But then she meets Ryan; a sweet, secretive, loner-type. She knows she absolutely cannot get involved with him, a relationship at this point would ruin all of her plans, but chemistry will not be denied and things get very complicated.

I have to admit I did not like Brooke at all early on in this story and wanted to smack myself upside the head for agreeing to review it. I had visions of another 1 star review in the works and my head began to ache. She was selfish, messed up and bitchy and I figured my dislike would eventually turn to hate as the book went along. But then something happened after the first few chapters and I felt real compassion for her. She realized she had been selfish and horrible but when that realization came it was too late. The worst thing imaginable happened and she could never make amends and I began to root for her to win. Her relationship with her dad was sweet and awkward and I enjoyed watching it evolve almost as much as I did her relationship with Ryan and her older male friend Terry. This is the kind of character and relationship development that is so lacking in fiction and the reason so many books get a “meh” rating.

I’m not going to say anything else about the plot. If it interests you just read it. It goes into some very dark places and if rape is a trigger for you please be warned. Terrible things happen and there is explicit sex, violence, drug use and language but none of it feels thrown in for shock value. It’s also a beautiful story of healing, acceptance, redemption and love. If you enjoy flawed characters and you’re up for it I can’t recommend it highly enough.

*The FTC makes me say I received this book for free from the publisher.