Merry Wanderer of the Night + YA

Review: In Too Deep by Amanda Grace

In Too Deep by Amanda Grace was one of those books that got my inner reader all a-flutter the very first time I heard about it. It's no secret that I'm in love with Contemporary, or that the books dealing with those real tough issues are almost always my favorite. And here was a book about a girl who lets everyone in school believe that Mr. Big Man On Campus raped her at a party. Umm... Yes please! I haven't had much time to read lately, but I made time for this one. And oh my goodness, let me tell you — Wow. Was this book worth it.

Sam was such a hard character for me to read about, because I personally had a hard time putting myself in her shoes. So I spent a vast majority of the book flopping between wanting to slap some sense into Sam and feeling so sorry for her and wanting to hug her and help her make life better. But most of the time, the urge to slap her won. Because Sam doesn't have a strong sense of self, doesn't have confidence in herself or her abilities and because of this, she allows other people to make her decisions for her. I hate to say it, but she's really a rather weak character. She falls into the easiest course of action and just allows it to take her where it will. So, when she gets to school and starts to learn that everyone believes Carter to be a rapist, she doesn't speak up and quell the rumors, because she doesn't know how, and is terrified of even the idea of needing to announce something like that, and then others who feel wronged by Carter (like the girl he dumped because she wouldn't have sex & the girl he dumped because she did) tell Sam that she's doing the right thing — Carter deserves this comeuppance & there is only a week left until graduation when he can leave all of this behind.

But actions have consequences, and even choosing to do nothing is a choice.

It doesn't take long before the lie spirals out of control and Sam loses the ability to hold onto it. Her life is falling apart. She's being threatened by the Jocks at school, cheered on by the girls who think Carter is a jerk and comforted by her best friend (now boyfriend, yes?!!!), watching Carter lose his firm confidence and more, and she is feeling completely confused and overwhelmingly guilty.

I think, for the most part, Sam is a good person. But, like most teenagers, she is a little confused about her place in life, and is trying to determine where she fits. But she places far too much weight on what other people think and I don't think she ever really allowed herself to be herself, meaning she's about to graduate high school with no idea who she really is or what she stands for. And when you don't have a clear and definitive idea of who you are, you allow other people to mold you & their influence becomes far stronger over you than your own moral compass.

There are a lot of nuances to this book, a lot of layers that allow us to see how Sam grew to be who she is. Her mom walked out on them when Sam was just a baby, her father is the Sheriff and far more authoritative than loving, and she's got some deeper feelings for the best friend/boy next door that she agonizes over, etc. We learn a lot about Sam, and I really liked that the incident was not the only part of this story. We really learn a lot about Sam and you really get the sense that she could be a real person, that you probably know or have known a teenager very similar to her.

This is a book that has firmly found its strength in reality. I honestly believe that a situation like the one that plays out in this book could happen in real life, and I don't actually think it's that hard to imagine. But it does lead me to the best part of this book, which is the ending.

I want to extend an enormous THANK YOU to Ms. Grace for not being afraid of her ending and for allowing her story to take it's characters to the natural and honest conclusion without cheating us into a happily ever after. I've read far too many books that take a hugely honest and emotional story that could do so much for its readers and then leaves us with a beautifully crafted "happy place" for each and every character. A warning to those of you who enjoy unrealistically happy endings — This is not that book.

You cannot have a character who willingly participates in the destruction of another human being's life and not expect there to be consequences. Sam didn't want to hurt anyone. She didn't set out to ruin Carter, but she did stand by and watch while it happened, knowing that she could easily have fixed things for herself and for Carter had she simply opened her mouth and been honest. But instead, she sits back, allows other people to convince her that he deserves it (because that makes it "ok" for her to take the 'easy' way out) and watches while Carter's life falls to pieces.

This is a book that I think needs to be widely read. Because it teaches us a lesson that people, especially teenagers, NEED to hear. Your actions and choices DO matter. The MAKE a difference. And staying silent about something important? That IS a choice and it WILL have an impact. You ARE responsible for the result and you DO have to accept the consequences for that choice.

I can't stress enough how honest this book felt, how true to life, how real. This isn't a story where one magical speechifying moment is enough to fix all the damage that has been done, and the book is going to leave you feeling shaken. But Sam learns from her mistake. She begins to grow as a person and find her own self. And what more to ask for in a book than honesty, growth and emotion.

I don't know how to recommend this book more highly. There were things I didn't love about the book, things that weren't perfect. But the tone of the story and the ability of Ms. Grace to be honest with her readers and leave us in a place both dark and hopeful while still being true to her characters and the situation she's created more than makes up for any faults within the story. And the lessons learned in this book are lessons that every needs to learn.

Please. Read this book. And, if you have teenagers living at your house, have a copy at home.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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Review: In Too Deep by Amanda Grace + YA