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.(This is a New Adult fiction book with mature themes. It contains graphic sex and language and a description of sexual violence.)
Thank you to Giselle of Xpresso Book Tours and to S. Walden for the review copy. This, in no way, affected my views of the novel.
5 stars are not enough. I. am. bawling. I’m a crying mess. This has exceeded all my expectations and I had high ones. I can’t even. I don’t think I can review this properly. Or justify how effin’ great it was. Can I just take a video of myself crying a day after reading it? How it still raises goosebumps on my skin with just a thought of it? How my skin crawls and how enraged I am for the pigs (sorry pigs, I love you still) in this novel? Oh God. Help me God. Help all the strong girls out there.
And three days after reading it, I’m still a mess. I tried to read lighter novels and while they took my mind away from Going Under, I still get goosebumps when I think about it. And as I’m typing up this review, I’m getting teary-eyed. If I ever get to be an actress, I think all the cue I need to cry is to think about this novel and harness that sadness and pity and awe I had while reading this.
Brooke, our heroine, is a flawed character. More importantly, she sounds real. She feels real. Some of you might completely hate her right from the start because of her mistakes. But as much as I hated what she did before, I couldn’t stop myself from actually loving her. She’s a girl on a mission but still, she’s a girl. She can’t help but fall for a boy. She’s wracked by guilt from everything she did and everything she didn’t do and now she’s working to avenge Beth’s death by exposing this ‘Fantasy Slut League’ she discovered. And Brooke is surrounded by people who love her and care for her.
Her relationship with her dad was cute, funny and a delight to read. Brooke has a smart mouth and a short temper so she usually tells what’s on her mind. She hasn’t lived with her dad for years and it’s amazing how it’s as if they were never separated because there was no bad blood in her parents’ divorce. But by the end, it was also her relationship with her father that broke me again. I’m a sucker for father-daughter relationships in literature and films and anywhere so it certainly tugged at my heartstrings.
Gretchen, Brooke’s best friend, is the ever supportive friend. I wish all girls to have a best friend like her. Let’s not forget Terry who also became Brooke’s secret pillar and a friend and ally she never expected she’ll have. These people, along with the boy she’ll fall for, made me feel happy for Brooke.
But there are also the evil in this novel. This is only the third time I’ve felt this much rage while reading a novel. The first was while reading Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife because Wen Fu was an abusive pig and bile still climbs up my throat when I remember how bad he was. The second was when I read Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless and Going Under was the third. I couldn’t fathom how people can be this evil and my skin crawled and still crawls when I think about how horrific and despicable they were.
And since love trumps all and love heals wounds even though the scars will always be there, Ryan was the perfect boy for Brooke. In the end, they weren’t the same as when they first met and while they’re both imperfect and they have baggage and scars they might forever carry, it’s okay. Because JUST LIKE THAT, they love each other and that’s enough. Love is enough. (I’m totally crying now while writing this review.)
Going Under was excruciatingly perfect. I do not recommend Going Under for anyone who has experienced sexual violence in any form. Going Under is graphic and real and too much. Definitely too much. But I think this is the kind of novel teens or anyone in the right age should read. It raises awareness and tackles a topic prevalent but not talked about. It would be difficult to read and it will hurt to read it but it still beams with hope at the end. And that’s what these strong girls need. These strong girls or strong people who have experienced sexual assault need hope. And even if they can’t read this on their own because it might be too emotional or it might bring all the scars back to the surface, I think the hope this novel gives must reach them. And so I urge you, yes, YOU, to read it and spread the hope. Spread the love. Spread awareness. Because strong girls, however strong they might be, need help. Everyone needs help. And it’s our duty to help, one way or another. Thank you, S. Walden, for doing more than your fair share.