July 19, 2013

In Too Deep - Michelle Kemper Brownlow

In Too Deep - Michelle Kemper Brownlow
In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing
Publication Date: June 6, 2013
Source/Format: Author (Thanks Michelle!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the author. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Gracie has just finished her freshman year of college in Memphis when she takes a job at a local pizza joint in her home town of McKenzie, Tennessee. She is the epitome of innocence when she meets Noah. Noah is unabashedly handsome, intriguingly reckless and just cocky enough to be sexy. Gracie’s instincts tell her to stay far away from him and based on the stories she hears from her co-workers he leaves broken hearts in his wake. But still, she can’t explain her fascination with him.

Noah puts aside his bad boy ways when what he thought was a summer crush has him unexpectedly falling in love. But soon after Gracie transfers to UT Knoxville to be with Noah, their unexpected love becomes riddled with anger, deceit and humiliation.

Jake, Noah’s former roommate and Gracie’s best friend, can no longer be a bystander. Gracie’s world falls out from beneath her and when she breaks she turns to Jake for strength. As Jake talks her through a decision she’s not yet strong enough to make, together they uncover a truth so ugly neither of them is prepared for its fallout. Will Jake pull her to the surface or is Gracie Jordan finally In Too Deep? (from Goodreads)

It was impossible to resist the lure of In Too Deep. The characters seemed cliché to me: a good girl caught in a destructive relationship, a bad boy who claims he’s “changed”, and a guy best friend who provides emotional support. But, in spite of these reservations, the novel displayed a surprising strength in terms of characters and story. While it is by no means a new favorite, it was a decent read.

Gracie amused, confused, frustrated and worried me at various turns in this novel. Overall, she felt like a girl I could be friends with – and that heightened my concern for her. She was trapped in a heartbreaking, abusive cycle with Noah; it frustrated me each time she tried to find a way out, only to be reeled back in. Brownlow wrote the cycle authentically, driving home the point that this sort of thing actually can happen in real life. I really appreciated this quality in the story. In the end, Gracie does manage to exhibit some level of strength and independence, which made me so proud of her.

Noah – oh Noah. He was trouble from the minute we first meet him, and it’s fairly obvious. The difficulty lies in completely dismissing him as a bad person, even with all the reprehensible things he says and does. I felt like there was a psychological explanation for why he is how he is, though that doesn’t get explored in depth (except from his perspective whenever he defends himself to Gracie). It is not okay, of course, that he treats Gracie as he does, and so obviously, I did not care much for his character.

Jake was the complete opposite of Noah, constantly a sweetheart and one of Gracie’s best friends. He might have crossed certain boundaries in terms of friendship (at least, in my opinion), but it was easy to appreciate the unconditional strength, support and love he allowed Gracie to experience. The way they interacted made it so darn clear that he had feelings for Gracie, so it might have caused me to yell at them (mentally and literally) to get their act together. While we don’t really learn much about him apart from how good-looking he is, to how Gracie sees him, I didn’t mind that all too much.

Seeing how the boys were like night and day, the juxtaposition of the relationships is very interesting. Noah and Gracie’s relationship is twisted, flipping from high to low so fast that I could barely keep up. It’s turbulent, riddled with passion, fear and indignation. Jake and Gracie, on the other hand, was completely steady, as Jake would constantly provide comfort and advice. It was peaceful, true and comfortable. Brownlow did a good job demonstrating the differences between the two, whether or not it was intentional.

[Note: I don’t like circumstances that push Jake and Gracie together, even though I’m totally a fan of their relationship. It just didn’t seem right to me, even though it could be explained as a consequence of how Noah treats her.]

I wasn’t a big fan of the symbolism of being drowned “in the deep” that was consistently used, but that might be a personal preference. If it had been included only at the beginning and end, I would have probably considered it more poignant, instead of overused.

Even with its predictability, In Too Deep painted a realistic portrait of what an abusive relationship cycle is like. Brownlow successfully penned a story about a girl who’s caught – caught between the familiar and the new, caught in the gray area between right and wrong, caught between acknowledging her self-worth and having other people define it for her. Even with my personal reservations about it, this novel was a thought-provoking, good read.


  1. Thanks for the awesome and honest review! I don't know if I'll read this book anytime soon. So many abuse books out there and while they're great and the message needs to be said, it just gets so depressing.

  2. I haven't heard of this one before, but it looks like a great, yet dark, contemporary read! It seems like Brownlow really digs deep into this abusive relationship. Don't you love it when you just connect with a character so well that you just grow with them? It seems like Gracie was a really great character. Blegh, Noah sounds awful! Your love-hate relationship with Jake makes me curious. I added this one to my to-be-read pile, thanks for the lovely review, Alexa!

  3. This book kind of broke me because of how close to home it came. I think there were some parts that rang truer than others as far as the abusive relationship, but being in a situation very similar, it was a very tough tough read - but I'm glad I read it and I found it oddly cathartic and I'll probably re-read this at some point, believe it or not. Great, honest thoughts Alexa.

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  5. Thank you so much for your time in reviewing IN TOO DEEP! I loved your review! And I love that you "got" Gracie! I hope you'll check out the sequel, ON SOLID GROUND, when it is released in Deember!


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