A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about how the legal and prison systems work, the difficulties released prisoners have in reintegrating into society, and the stigma attached to convicted criminals and their families.
There's hope for a bright future, even if you come from a troubled family. You can't change people, but you can learn how to protect and care for yourself. Developing your own support system outside your family helps.
Positive Role Models
Clare learns how to be self-sufficient and develop a support system away from her dysfunctional family. Her close friends are positive influences on her and demonstrate love, trust, and loyalty. A friend's mom takes Clare under her wing and advocates for her. One of Clare's brothers works through his own issues to become more caring and supportive toward her.
Violence & Scariness
Several physical altercations and assaults end with broken bones and stitches. Character's accused and convicted of rape. A character recounts witnessing a rape when younger. Description of the aftermath of serious car accident with bloodied driver.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Vague reference to a teen couple making out. A second-hand story of a girl sneaking out of a boy's house in the morning, implying she spent the night.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"S--t" and its variations, "f--k" and its variations, "crap" and its variations, "pissed," "God," "bitch," "dumbass," "a--munch," "a--hole," "butt," "butthole," "buttmunch."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Lucky Charms, Coors, Marlboro, Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Heineken, Corona, MGD, Guinness, SKYY Vodka, Speedo, Coke
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Underage and adult drinking, pot smoking, and cigarette smoking. A few characters get drunk. References to serious drug use and addiction. Teens drink and smoke pot at high school graduation.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Learning Not to Drown details the ways in which one person's demons can cause a serious ripple effect through the lives of the people around him. Clare Tovin is a smart, self-reliant teenager whose brother Luke has been in and out of jail most of her life. This causes many people in her small town to whisper and judge the Tovin family. Although Clare idolizes Luke, she comes to learn the reality of his crimes and her parents' enabling behavior toward him. Characters, including teens, drink, smoke, and use drugs. There are several violent altercations, and a character is accused and convicted of rape. Characters use strong language, including "f--k" and its variations and "s--t" and its variations.
Is It Any Good?
In her debut novel, Anna Shinoda creates a gripping, realistic tale of living with the fallout of a relative's crimes and of the stigma that comes with being associated with a criminal. The story's told from Clare's point of view, and at first she is whiny and grating. But as she faces her family's secrets and learns to advocate for herself, her tone becomes more assured. It's enjoyable to watch her mature over the course of the book. Learning Not to Drown's structure of alternating between past and present builds interest and moves the story forward in a compelling way.
Clare's life is frustrating, and she gets no support at home, but the overall message is good: You can't change people, but you can take care of yourself and build a good support system outside of your family. The lurking character of Skeleton, a representation of Clare's embarrassment over her family, is a clever device. He taunts Clare, but she eventually learns to face him and deal with his near-constant presence. Clare's parents are infuriating characters, and her dad's role is somewhat confusing and poorly fleshed out. The story would have benefited from further exploration of their relationship and his motivations.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.