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 Grace 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?
Y'all know those books that make you want to throw your e-reader against a wall...or light the paperback on fire...or just straight up strangle someone because you're so frustrated and pissed off and heartbroken? Yeah, you do. We've all been there. The thing is, if my emotions are going to get whiplash, I like a warning. So, in case you're like me, here's your warning: In Too Deep is one of those books. It rips your heart out, runs over it with a combine, and then just expects you to keep on keeping on with whatever remnants of a heart you have left.
Gracie is the innocent college freshman with a stable, slightly boring, long distance boyfriend. Noah is the bad boy who brags about how many chicks he banged and how many beers he drank last weekend. They are an unlikely couple, but when Noah finds himself intrigued by Gracie's quiet, soft, demeanor he insists she give him a chance. Against her better judgment, she agrees and finds herself falling head over heels for a guy who seemed all wrong for her. When she transfers to his college, she thinks it will only make their relationship stronger. The problem is that she didn't ever count on Noah reverting back to his bad boy ways. Between all the lies, deceit, and emotional abuse, their relationship has become a nightmare; a nightmare that Gracie keeps praying will turn into a happily ever after. But just how many times can you forgive someone and just how many chances is too many before you finally see the person for who they really are?
I went back on forth on how I felt about this story. Nope - scratch that - I went back and forth on how I felt about some of the characters, mainly Gracie. I felt for her on a really personal level, and could actually understand her wanting to forgive Noah and give him a chance to make things right. She loved him. Love makes you do stupid things...like give your boyfriend chance after chance after chance...even after he hurts you. I just wish she would have grown a backbone a little sooner instead of literally just letting him walk all over her time and time again. But actually, the biggest issue I had with her was her constant crying. Seriously. It was like every other page she was crying about something to someone. I get that she was hurting, but I just got a little tired of her crying about everything. One other thing that bothered me was how she mentally thought she was somehow better than everyone that had to wait in line to get it in the frat parties just because she was dating a Sigma Chi brother. She mentions a few times that she mentally does a "beauty queen wave" as she walks past the long line of people. That's not in tune with the rest of her personality, IMO. That is something I would expect from a stuck up, bitchy female character; Gracie never struck me as stuck up or bitchy until she went into the "perks" of dating a frat guy. I knew girls like that in college...the ones who dated frat guys and thought every other girl who didn't was beneath them...and I avoided those very girls like the plague.
I don't really want to delve into the specifics of the plot, because I don't want to give away any spoilers but the relationship between Gracie and Noah is...toxic. But as awful as he could be to her, I kept hoping he would get his shit together! There is something masochistic in me that loves jerks - I can't help it! That being said, Jake might be one of my favorite non-jerks ;) He was such a wonderful friend and rock for Gracie to lean on while she sorted through problem after problem with Noah. He wipes her tears (and there are lots of them) and tries to make her see that she deserves better than what Noah has put her through time after time. I'll be honest with y'all...Jake is pretty swoon-worthy!
This novel was well written, and I liked the drowning metaphors spaced throughout as they related to Gracie's mood. Overall, it was a good angst-driven novel and I applaud Michelle for touching on the subject of emotional abuse, and handling it very well. I'd just say to those who are planning to read this, prepare yourselves.
The strong force of the wave pulled me under. I gasped for air just before my face disappeared below the surface. My body rolled over and over, my arms flailed, and my head pounded into the sea bed which felt like a concrete floor. The salty water stung my eyes. I forced myself to keep them open, fearing I would slip into unconsciousness from the blow I took to the head. I knew I had to hold it together long enough for the swell to pull me back up when the wave rolled. But something was pulling me deeper. I fought with all my might, kicking against the thick water swallowing me whole. I used my arms like underwater oars and sliced through the depths trying to reach what I needed most, but I was in too deep.
“Get out!” I could barely get the words out before I had to run to the bathroom and void my gut of its contents. Noah didn’t move.
I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and screamed, “I said, Get! Out!” I stumbled back into the room, grabbed the box of mementos I’d collected from the last year of our relationship, and dumped everything into the trashcan in the corner. Like a communal grave, there lay movie tickets, dried rose petals, a strip of photos from the boardwalk, all the beautiful letters he wrote last fall semester, an empty beer bottle, and all the rest of what was now just a reminder of the guy I thought I knew.
“Gracie, don’t…” His face fell, but he didn’t move from the edge of my bed.
“Don’t? Don’t what, Noah? Don’t break up with you? Are you kidding?” My ears burned from his admission of guilt. It hit me broadside. I wasn’t prepared for the words he had spoken just moments before.
The rush of water covering me grew cold. Icy. My body quaked. My lungs burned and begged for air. I could see light above. It glimmered and danced on the small waves my panic created. I reached for the surface. Even if I couldn’t pull myself up, maybe just feeling the sun’s warmth would stop the shivering that threatened to unravel me.
My legs gave out beneath me and I crumbled into a heap on my apartment floor. I sobbed so uncontrollably I gasped for air. I was livid. Repulsed. Crushed and torn. Noah was the love of my life, and things were just getting back to the way I longed for them to be. Back to what used to be our “normal.” Before he pledged Sigma Chi. Our relationship hadn’t been easy since I transferred to Knoxville. But our story wasn’t ready to end.
It went something like this:
Bad boy meets good girl.
Bad boy turns sensitive.
Good girl gives sensitive boy all of her.
Flowers. Love letters.
Long, sweet phone calls.
Good girl transfers to sensitive boy’s school.
Sensitive boy becomes fraternity boy.
Drunken social events.
Fraternity boy pulls good girl under.
Good girl finds herself in too deep....
About the Author
Michelle Kemper Brownlow has been a storyteller her entire life. Her debut was on the high school cheerleading bus granting requests to re-tell her most embarrassing moments for a gaggle of hysterical squadmates.
Earning her Bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in Art Education and then marrying her very own “Jake,” she moved to Binghamton, NY where she taught high school. After having two children she quit work and finished her Master’s degree in Elementary Education at Binghamton University.
The Brownlow family of four moved to Michelle’s hometown of Morgantown, PA while the children were still quite young. A few years after moving, her family grew by one when they welcomed a baby into their home through the gift of adoption. The family still resides in PA, just miles from where that high school cheer bus was parked.
Michelle has been an artist for as long as she can remember, always choosing pencils and crayons over toys and puzzles. As a freelance illustrator, her simple characters play the starring roles in numerous emergent reader books published by Reading Reading Books.
“Writing is my way of making sense of the world. When I give my characters life on the pages I write, it frees up space in my mind to welcome in new stories that are begging to be told,” says Brownlow.