28 March 2015

Into the Deep End by Leesa Freeman

 Before doesn’t exist—not for Luke Stevenson—not anymore.

He once dreamt of winning Olympic gold and escaping his crappy little New Mexico town, but that dream shattered the night a drunk driver took his twin sister and confined him to a wheelchair. Mourning Bethany and struggling to cope with his new paraplegic life, Luke is blind with rage at everyone and everything.

Adriana Toomey, the only other survivor of the crash, can barely crawl out of bed after burying her fiancé, Luke’s best friend. But what haunts her most, she has no memory of that fatal night.

An old friend who manages a camp for special needs kids, strong-arms the broken pair to act as counselors for three weeks. Seeing each other again is painful. Luke reminds Adriana too much of the man she was going to marry. Luke, who secretly loves his best friend’s girl, has no idea how to be the kind of man any woman would want. Disabled and destroyed, what could he possibly have to offer now?

Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.
Into the Deep End has got to be one of the saddest yet most hopeful heart wrenching books I have read in a while. Even knowing what it's like to lose my best friend and soul mate, I still cannot fathom the loss that Luke experienced, especially at such a young age. He lost the best friend he had in his twin sister, his best friend Rob, the use of his legs, his college scholarship, and his future in competitive swimming, including an almost guaranteed spot at the Olympics. The level of depression and anger that Luke exhibits at the beginning of the book is completely understandable. Which is what makes the change he undergoes throughout the course of the book so beautiful.

The book opens with Luke basically being forced by his father to go with Adriana to work as a counselor at a camp for persons with Spina Bifida and spinal cord injuries (SCIs). As the only other survivor of the accident, Adriana’s presence is a painful reminder of all that Luke lost that night. The idea of being stuck with her at a camp for other people in wheelchairs in the middle of nowhere for three weeks is maddening to Luke. That Luke is jealous of Adriana’s inability to remember the accident while Adriana is resentful that he can remember but won’t tell her does not help their situation at all. As much as he didn’t want to be there and despite his attempts to leave, being at the camp was exactly what Luke needed so that he could gain a new perspective on the life ahead of him. Because each week of camp was for a different age group (children, tweens/teens, and older teens & adults), Luke learned different lessons. He also benefited from the physical therapist who seemed to channel her inner drill sergeant when working with Luke. But Luke was not the only one who benefited from the camp – Adriana also showed signs of healing and the two were able to reconnect and begin planning for life after camp.

Despite only being three weeks in length, the time at camp spanned just over half of the novel as it was imperative that Luke, and Adriana, have the chance to begin the healing process. It also gave the reader time to become acquainted with Will and Gina, who play a big part in Luke’s life after camp is finished as he moves into an apartment in their complex at Will’s urging. That Gina grew up with a father who also had an SCI gave her a perspective that was vital to Luke’s continued improvement post-camp. I will admit that I was angry and sad on Luke’s behalf when Adriana began dating. Yet Ms. Freeman provided a resolution to Luke’s love life that was perfect. I was impressed with the way the author addressed Luke’s concerns about his sexuality – or lack thereof in his mind – and the importance of finding that person who accepts you as you are. I absolutely loved this book and stayed up until 2 am to finish it because I had to know how it ended and it was sooooo worth it. But be forewarned, don’t start this book without a serious supply of tissues because I found myself crying both tears of sadness and joy while reading Into the Deep End


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