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The Drowning


The Drowning

Rachel Ward’s THE DROWNING revolves around --- surprise, surprise --- a drowning, namely that of protagonist Carl Adams’ older brother Rob. Awash with jealous rage and murderous intent, Rob lures his girlfriend Neisha Gupta to their town’s lake. But, thanks to the heroics of his younger bro, Rob, not Neisha, finishes the day belly-up.
Now, as an amnesic, Carl flounders amid the aftermath of his brother’s sudden death. Meanwhile, Rob hatches a plan for revenge. Still eager for Neisha’s death, Rob’s ghost lurks in water, transforming even the slightest bit of moisture into pulse-pounding terror for Carl. Rain, leaky faucets, black mold --- they all constitute a hideaway for Rob, and, consequently, all represent a threat to his increasingly hydrophobic victims. Will Carl defeat his brother’s ghost, or will Rob’s homicidal plot finally come to fruition?
I applaud Ward for taking stylistic risks in her prose. Throughout THE DROWNING, she uses expected verbs in unexpected ways.
Although THE DROWNING’s morbid title and rather eerie cover art evoke the likes of Ira Levin, Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King, Ward centers her novel around character relationships rather than suspense and gore. Much of the book’s tension arises from Carl’s somewhat rocky --- but always genuine --- relationship with his mother, as well as his much less satisfying, on-again, off-again fling with Neisha.
Throughout  THE DROWNING, Ward’s natural, often amusing dialogue buoys the reader through a rambling plotline, and the sweet talk exchanged between Carl and Neisha attains the perfect balance between curt and sappy. Although their romance presents the outward appearance of authenticity, however, Neisha’s passivity, vapidity and extreme mood swings fail to justify Carl’s near-obsessive interest in her. The entire novel is centered around Carl’s quest to protect Neisha, yet Neisha never really struck me as someone worth protecting. Consequently, I never became emotionally invested in Carl’s struggle against his brother.
Carl, however, manages to both charm and frustrate readers, which lends his character relatability and depth. Although Carl’s primary goal, protecting Neisha, is unarguably a noble one, he enacts a few less-than-virtuous plans while trying to secure her safety. In analyzing Carl’s character, I can’t help but think of Jay Gatsby; though Gatsby’s honorable end may not have justified his shady means, it certainly humanized them. Furthermore, while both Carl and Gatsby devote themselves wholeheartedly to Neisha and Daisy, respectively, 200-plus pages seems like an awfully long time to waste chasing such awfully superficial people. I’m reminded of author John Green’s assertion that, “Great men [especially] need to be careful of what they worship.”
I do, however, applaud Ward for taking stylistic risks with her prose. Throughout THE DROWNING, she uses expected verbs in unexpected ways. Carl describes his mother’s face, for example, as “alive, twitching and wobbling, her emotions writhing under her skin, waiting to burst out.” Ward’s refreshing use of language holds readers’ interest through the book’s first 200 pages, even as her somewhat sluggish plot meanders from one dead end to the next.
THE DROWNING probably won’t thrill you, but it will amuse you with humorous dialogue, a fascinating protagonist and Ward’s expertly-crafted imagery.

Reviewed by Alison S., Teen Board Member on June 5, 2014

The Drowning
by Rachel Ward

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2013
  • Genres: Paranormal, Thriller, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Chicken House Ltd
  • ISBN-10: 1908435364
  • ISBN-13: 9781908435361