Get our latest staff recommendations, award news and digital catalog links right to your inbox.
Learning Not to Drown
Table of Contents
About The Book
There is a pecking order to every family. Seventeen-year old Clare is the overprotected baby; Peter is the typical, rebellious middle child; and Luke is the oldest, the can’t-do-wrong favorite. To their mother, they are a normal, happy family.
To Clare, they are a family on the verge of disaster. Clare: the ambitious striver; Peter: the angry ticking time bomb; and Luke: a drug-addicted convicted felon who has been in and out of jail for as long as Clare can remember—and who has always been bailed out by their parents.
Clare loves Luke, but life as his sister hasn’t been easy. And when he comes home (again), she wants to believe this time will be different (again). Yet when the truths behind his arrests begin to surface, everything Clare knows is shaken to its core. And then Luke is arrested. Again.
Except this time is different, because Clare’s mom does the unthinkable on Luke’s behalf, and Clare has to decide whether turning her back on family is a selfish act…or the only way to keep from drowning along with them.
Skeletons don’t like to stay in closets.
Most families try to lock them tightly away, buried beneath smiles and posed family pictures. But our Family Skeleton follows me closely with his long, graceful stride.
I guess people in my town think they have a pretty clear picture of Skeleton. Their whispers have haunted me most of the seventeen years of my life, stalking me almost as closely as he does: prison, prison, prison. Shame, shame, shame.
They don’t see him like I do. His eye sockets expand and shrink. His cartoon jaw morphs from smiles to frowns, from serious to surprise. He’s at least six feet tall, and when his bones stretch, he can dunk a basketball without his big toe coming off the ground. He’s quite talented.
When he wants to relax, he lounges in a silk smoking jacket with a Cuban cigar and drinks brandy from a warm snifter. He might have a drinking problem, but I don’t want to be presumptuous.
I think Mom, Dad, Peter, and Luke see Skeleton clearly. After all, they are my family. Although I can’t be sure, since Mom and Dad rarely talk about him, and Peter leaves the room whenever he appears.
Skeleton is the constant reminder of the crimes committed by my brother Luke. I’m used to Skeleton’s taunts, his lanky fingers pointing, the click of his bones when he cartwheels across the room. I’m used to him reminding me he will always be a part of my life story. He will always be there to warn that every action has a reaction, every crime has a consequence.
And the more he hangs around, the more my reputation decays.
Skeleton didn’t always exist—our family photo album shows me what reality was like before he started to appear. But I was too young then to own that memory now, a pre-Skeleton memory. My reality, my memories are like spinning pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that never make a complete picture.
And I can’t help but think, maybe, if Skeleton would go away, we could have perfect again.
- Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (April 1, 2014)
- Length: 352 pages
- ISBN13: 9781416993933
- Grades: 9 and up
- Ages: 14 - 99
- Lexile ® HL640L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
Browse Related Books
Raves and Reviews
"Learning Not to Drown is a courageous, nuanced, and accurate look at the struggled faced by families living with incarcerated loved ones. Anna Shinoda's deeply informed story is not to be missed." - Dr. Drew of Loveline, HLN, and Celebrity Rehab
Awards and Honors
- Kansas NEA Reading Circle List High School Title
Resources and Downloads
High Resolution Images
- Book Cover Image (jpg): Learning Not to Drown Hardcover 9781416993933
- Author Photo (jpg): Anna Shinoda Bobby Kim(0.1 MB)
Any use of an author photo must include its respective photo credit
More to Explore
Our Summer Reading Recommendations
Red-hot romances, poolside fiction, and blockbuster picks, oh my! Start reading the hottest books of the summer.
This Month's New Releases
From heart-pounding thrillers to poignant memoirs and everything in between, check out what's new this month.