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Pull Me Under

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  2,133 ratings  ·  272 reviews
A searing debut novel from one of the most imaginative minds in fiction

Kelly Luce's Pull Me Under tells the story of Rio Silvestri, who, when she was twelve years old, fatally stabbed a school bully. Rio, born Chizuru Akitani, is the Japanese American daughter of the revered violinist Hiro Akitani--a Living National Treasure in Japan and a man Rio hasn't spoken to since sh
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Jessica Jernigan I just finished it, and I was disappointed. It felt both under-written and unedited to me. I was always several steps ahead of the protagonist. Waitin…moreI just finished it, and I was disappointed. It felt both under-written and unedited to me. I was always several steps ahead of the protagonist. Waiting for her to catch up to the plot was kind of tiresome. (less)

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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  2,133 ratings  ·  272 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Nov 07, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 The opening page is shocking, immediately drew me into the story. Wanted to see what happened, and why. So we follow the story of a young girl, Chizuri, father Japanese, considered a national treasure and mother Irish, who had just recently committed suicide. A young woman who never felt as if she fit in, was teased, bullied until she reacts in a horrifying manner. A life changing manner and she loses everything. Eventually she will resettle in the US, make a new life for herself, but can se ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rio Silvestri is a wife, mother and nurse. She lives in America and has what she thinks, and more importantly others think, is a typical life. However when her father dies Rio must return to Japan and the country where she was infamous as Chizuru, a girl who murdered another student. Great premise and really interesting read. Lots of themes about identity and what we tell ourselves vs other people. A gripping dark literary novel of unravelling and rebuilding ourselves.
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read but it is not an overly moving one. After much consideration I’m giving Pull Me Under three stars and still having trouble writing anything that doesn’t turn into a plot summary, which is not what I want to convey.

I can appreciate the clever structuring of this book. We first meet a grieving and lonely twelve year old Chizuru Akitani living in Japan. Next we meet Rio Silvestri, a thirty-eight year old nurse, mother, wife, living in Boulder, CO. As
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm having trouble forming words to describe my reading experience of this book.

Chizuru Akitani is bullied as a child and takes matters into her own hands by stabbing him. She goes to a juvenile detention center and then eventually leaves for Colorado where she re-starts her life. In Japan, her family is broken, detached and disconnected. Her father is a "Living National Treasure" of a musician and her mother is out of the picture.

I immediately connected to the writing- it was gorgeous and c
Julianne (Outlandish Lit)
[Actually 3.5]

If you've been to Japan, you will enjoy reading this book. If you want to feel like you've been to Japan, you will also enjoy reading this book. At the beginning, you're immediately drawn in. Half Japanese, half American girl Chizuru kills her school bully - SO JAPANESE. We see her at that time and we see her later as a pretty well-rounded, stable adult. But when she learns that her father who abandoned her has died, she decides to go to Japan by herself. And that's when all sorts
Betsy Robinson
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This story of a half-Japanese woman returning home to Japan after the death of her famous father was well written but a bit slow and too earnest for my taste. But there is a lot of good stuff in it: great look at Japan, psychological insight, and even though I guessed the plot surprise well before it came, it is well paced. This will appeal more to readers who love women’s fiction.
Book of the Month

What no one knows about Rio Silvestri, a thirty-something woman living a picture perfect life in Colorado with her husband and daughter, is that when she was 12 years old and living in Japan, she stabbed the school bully in the neck with a letter opener. Gasp!

Rio would be content to keep her secret hidden for the rest of her life, but when a mysterious letter arrives at her doorstep informing her of the death of her father, Rio re
Ahhh I want to give this 5 stars so bad, but I just can't. I just don't feel like the main character went through the appropriate amount of character development to satisfy me. BUT - that's my only complaint. The plot was engaging and a tad disturbing, the rest of the characters are lively and unique, and although the book is on the shorter side I haven't been so immersed in a foreign setting in a very long time - I felt like I really was in Japan, experiencing the culture. I would heartily reco ...more
Sara Klem
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Mostly I thought this book was beautifully written while also being a page-turner, which is usually a difficult balance. I have no doubt that Kelly Luce is an amazing writer. I particularly loved the plot structure and her handling of themes pertaining to identity.

I have a few issues with it, though. I hated the ending. I get that not every book will have a satisfying ending that perfectly completes an arc, but to me it was a little more touchy-feely than I thought it should have been. This ties
Vincent Scarpa
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's Kelly Luce, whattya expect? ...more
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
4.25/5 stars

I really enjoyed this! Tbh I can't understand the negative reviews on this at all, but to each their own I suppose!

This book totally hooked me from page one. In the very beginning we find out that Rio - or, Chizuru - had murdered one of her classmates (very specifically with a Morimoto letter opener) only a few months after the death of her mother and she has been sent to a juvenile detention facility at the age of twelve. By the time she's twenty years old, she's had hardly any vi
Allegra Hyde
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“What if there was a fork in the road a long time ago, and I took the wrong path?” asks Rio Silvestri, the narrator of Kelly Luce’s debut novel, Pull Me Under. Rio’s question is a fundamentally human one: would my present be better if not for my past? In Luce’s hands, the answer is a nuanced dance across many decades and between two countries. Rio must reconcile her fraught childhood in Japan as Chizuru Akitani—an infamous juvenile delinquent—with her painstakingly constructed life in America. P ...more
Renita D'Silva
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Poignant and profound. I loved this book so much. Felt for Rio.
Dec 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Really strong beginning, but I found the plot to kind of fall apart in the latter half. Also, while I appreciated the use of Japanese language and culture, and there were many things that demonstrated a rich knowledge of both, some of the inaccuracies about Boulder, Colorado were a bit irksome. For instance, there is a line that states that almost no Japanese people are on CU's campus (my alma mater, where I majored in Japanese, by the way), which is emphatically not true. CU Boulder has a renow ...more
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. It's the kind of book that you can't--or don't want to--put down; the story doesn't lull at any point. I love learning about other cultures, so I loved that this book offers you a glimpse into Japanese culture. The protagonist is a character you will root for, feel heartbroken for, and want to reach through the book to hug. #allthefeels ...more
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was such a pleasant surprise. I knew very little of the story beforehand, but I devoured this book in two short days (which is quick for me). The plot focuses on facing your demons from your past, but it's the smooth, pleasing writing that made this such an enjoyable read for me. ...more
Sara Penny
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-reads
I'll admit one of the most appealing elements of this book was the Japan setting, and I loved the snippets of Japanese culture described throughout. The details of the temple pilgrimage were fascinating and led me to seek more details about the trail outside of the book.
But travel inspiration aside, I did really enjoy this read. I loved how the story started off by recalling the narrators time spent in the detention centre; doing so really grabbed my interest and I was invested in the story bef
More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm.

Pull Me Under was my Book of the Month selection for December. I wasn't really thrilled with any of the selections, but I wanted to get two other books, and you can't skip the month and still do that, so I went with Pull Me Under. The story here is about Rio, originally Chizuru, who is half American and half Japanese, and spent the first half of her life there--though eight years of that time was spent in a juvenile detention facility af
Hannah // Book Nerd Native
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017

This is the story of a young woman who holds a terrible childhood secret. This secret comes to haunt her in her adult life, and on a new continent. You follow Rio, as she goes home to her hometown in Japan, and uncovers secrets, and tries to come to terms with her past.

Thoughts // Review

I didn’t want to give much more of a synopsis than I did, because I have heard a lot of complaints about this book centered around people’s expectations. This book is definitely not your typical thriller;
Jessie Seymour
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The character development in Pull Me Under is on point, and the storyline creates intrigue and enticement. I was pulled in to the story from the very first page. After about three or four chapters, I was nearly positive I'd be giving this novel 5 stars. A young girl kills a classmate, and as a woman she must confront the demons she's hid away for so long. We get the psychological factor. We get a little bit of suspense, and we get a ton of interaction between characters that allows us as readers ...more
Shira Selkovits
Dec 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is such a beautifully written, mesmerizing story. The opening page had me hooked immediately, and I expected a much different story arc. I was surprised to find such a stunning personal exploration by our narrator, Chizuru Akitani. Now 35, Chizuru takes us on her journey forth from age 12, forth from the one event she felt she would never escape.
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
There are several inconsistencies in this book that don't hold to true, IRL facts, and a few things that I think editing should've caught. It also was NOT AT ALL the type of book that I thought it would be. Based on the (very limited) amount I read from the blurb/some reviews, I thought this would be more of a mystery/thriller-type book. But it isn't. Because I went in mostly blind, however, I had no real expectations of this book, and as such, I think I enjoyed it more than many of my friends s ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: suspense
This is an interesting read. We know from the beginning of the murder and the murderer. The mystery is the unveiling of events leading up to the murder and the consequences of that action. There are many complicated relationships which all are somehow related. The main character is half Japanese and half. This causes great difficulty throughout her life. The differences between the two cultures is a theme throughout the novel.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Easy read that I finished in a day. It was interesting to read about the Japanese culture and I really enjoyed all of the characters; flaws and all.
Aj Sterkel
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult
Likes: I love the beginning of this book. The plot sucked me in immediately. The main character, Rio, has a lot of secrets. She spent her childhood in a Japanese mental hospital after she stabbed a classmate to death at school. As an adult, she moves to the US and creates a whole new identity for herself. She hides her past from everyone, including her husband. I knew that Rio’s past would come back to haunt her, and I was excited to find out how that would happen. I stayed up late to read the f ...more
Jt O'Neill
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce to be a mesmerizing tale for our times. It is a story that addresses biracialism and all that goes with being "other" in both America and Japan. Additionally, it is a story that confronts identity, personal secrets, and one's ability to change oneself.

A few reviewers seemed to have a hard time connecting with the characters but I found the characters to be both complex and interesting. I found Chizuru/Rio to be believable and real. I could feel her rage at be
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pull Me Under tells the story of a woman coming to terms with her past. When she was twelve, she killed a classmate. Afterwards she becomes estranged from her father, moves to America, and starts a brand new life. But when her father dies, she returns to Japan and confronts her past. First person narratives are always tricky, but Luce does an excellent job in creating a flawed character that can still evoke sympathy. I found myself caught up in the story of Rio's past. In the novel the idea of w ...more
Apr 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This book did stick with me and I thought it was well written. However, I unfortunately couldn't get over the fact it was marketed to me as a thriller (through no fault of the author), when that isn't what this is. I would love to read more books by the same author. Also, having traveled to Japan, I love the descriptions of it. ...more
Sam Grill
Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I loved the idea but felt the presentation could be better at times.

Also, this is the second book I've read in the recent past about Japan, and both have included intense school bullying. Is bullying a huge issue in Japan's schools? Going to have to do some research on this.
Dec 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: tbr
3.5 stars. Review coming soon.
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Around the Year i...: Pull Me Under, by Kelly Luce 1 6 Apr 20, 2019 08:49AM  

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Kelly Luce is the author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail (A Strange Object, 2013), which won Foreword Review’s Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction, and the novel Pull Me Under (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016) a Book of the Month selection and one of Elle's 33 Best Books of 2016. She grew up in Brookfield, Illinois. After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in ...more

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“I swear, kids don’t grow a little every day. They save it up. One morning you wake up to a brand-new, much older kid.” 1 likes
“On a cloudless afternoon in the peaceful Shikoku city of Tokushima, twelve-year-old Chizuru Akitani, Japanese-American daughter of acclaimed violinist and Living National Treasure Hiro Akitani, walked into the staff room at Motomachi Elementary, covered with blood and clutching a letter opener. Panic swept the room, as people assumed the sixth grader, known for her introspective nature, had seriously hurt herself. The English teacher, Ms. Daniela Townshend, was the first to approach Chi-zuru. As she neared, the girl raised her palm and stilled the room with five words:

"This is not my blood.”
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