GOING UNDER by S. Walden
Author: S. Walden
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Genre: Mature Young Adult
Publisher: Penny Press
Release Date: March 17, 2013
Recommended Reading: AGE+ 18
Sexual Situations, Rape Scenes, Mature Language etc.
Contains No Spoilers
OVERALL THOUGHTS: I am not entirely sure what to consider this book. It could be mature YA, but the language is pretty rough in spots. On the other hand, it’s paramount to the story. It evokes necessary emotion from the scene. Additionally, the amount of sex these young people have is pretty difficult to stomach for high schoolers; however, it (to me at least) is a book about how grossly unprepared young people are to indulge in such risky and emotional behaviors. I am torn. All I can say is I hope to hell my kid never engages in this behavior and I am glad there are books out there that show the world that being a kid can be rough, being a young women in a sea of hunger can be dangerous and being unprepared for the hurdles of life can make or break a person. That said, this book has a powerful message, written with sensitivity, deep emotion and devastating realism. If you can withstand all the pain, betrayal and heartache, you just might love Going Under.
Brooke Wright has only two goals her senior year at Charity Run High School: stay out of trouble and learn to forgive herself for the past. Forgiveness proves elusive, and trouble finds her anyway when she discovers a secret club at school connected to the death of her best friend. She learns that swim team members participate in a “Fantasy Slut League,” scoring points for their sexual acts with unsuspecting girls.
Brooke, wracked with guilt over her friend’s death, decides to infiltrate the league by becoming one of the “unsuspecting girls,” and exact revenge on the boys who stole away her best friend. An unexpected romance complicates her plans, and her dogged pursuit of justice turns her reckless as she underestimates just how far the boys will go to keep their sex club a secret.
(Please take the content warning seriously: This is a New Adult fiction book with mature themes. It contains graphic sex and language and an explicit description of sexual violence.)[/note]
THE LOWDOWN: I knew going in that this book was going to be heavy. I also knew that it was going to involve violence that would undoubtedly sicken me. I was not let down. But as much as it portrayed depravity, it also showed the love and power that can come from life, through friends and family, through inner strength. That, underneath all the pain, there is hope.
I didn’t love the protagonist, but I don’t think I was supposed to. What I did love was that she was flawed in a very teenage, In a selfish and small-minded way. She was annoyingly naïve and liked to throw herself huge pity parties, but she was real. She acted the way an emotional and irrational young adult would. She didn’t think things through before going into situations; however, her heart was in the right place…for the most part. Several parts of this book were spent flashing back to a time when she acted the fool, betraying her closest friend, while the rest of the book we see her trying desperately to atone for her mistakes. But what worked so well was the process she goes through to get to that selfless place in life where she realizes she is just human and she can only do so much.
I loved the male protagonist. He was dreamy and I have to say, playing video games has forever changed for me (when you read it, you will understand). The character was sexy and mysterious, but also sensitive and kind. What I did find annoying was that this boy, still eighteen, was written more mature than most men in their thirties with years of sexual experience under their belts. His confidence and grace in the bedroom was wholly unbelievable and played against his counterparts giddy, naïve, sex starved, hormonal infatuation, he looked even more outrageously adult…but he was still enjoyable and made for less discomfort since these were still high school kids.
The sex was explicit and the book deals with some extremely heavy topics like suicide, rape, drugs, alcohol abuse, violence against women and underage sex games. It is stunning and yet unfortunately lifelike. I struggled for breath during some scenes, wondering if I could make it through after having to walk away from the book several times to regroup. I felt sickened because I knew this story was not far-fetched, in fact it is happening all over the country…maybe not always to the extent this book portrays, but it still exists.
The pacing was great and I finished it in a day, barely skipping over scenes. The writing was clear and the dialogue good, although sometimes a little out of range for the age group. I liked the peripheral characters, amused by their interactions with each other and found the way the book moved through this time frame and with these characters, to be honest and true to the characterization. It didn’t feel open-ended and everything was resolved, for better or worse.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Read it. There aren’t many mature YA (although the classification is listed as New Adult it still takes place in high school) out there that really stretch the limits like this one does and when that happens it is always worth the read, even if it makes you uncomfortable…no, especially if it makes you uncomfortable.