Katherine's Reviews > In at the Deep End

In at the Deep End by Kate        Davies
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it was ok
bookshelves: giveaway-winner, arc, contemporary, first-reads, reviewed

After reading the first chapter I thought for sure I’d be recommending this book to my friend. Julia’s thoughts as a narrator resonated closely with my own, and her wry insights were often coupled with a clever sense of humor. However, after about the first 40 pages, the dynamic began to shift in a way that made me feel increasingly uncomfortable. I still read through this book rather quickly; the humor never faded and the writing itself is very transparent, so we are able to gauge Julia’s true feelings through her actions and inner monologue. There just seemed to be a lack of depth to the characters and storyline, as well as a few major problems with the plotline that stuck out at me.

I think this is going to be a very polarizing book. Many people are going to read this and find it to be an engagingly raunchy comedy. Others will be too shocked and turned off by the sheer amount of sexual language. It is quite a humorous read, but the underlying sexual content pervades this book and ultimately will decide the audience. I am not prudish when it comes to sex in books, but the sexual acts and conversations must have a purpose: either it is trying to get you excited (as in erotica) or it is important to the growth of the characters and their understanding of others or themselves. Whichever the reason, the sex and its circumstances has to make sense and also be believable. In this case, our main character is supposedly on a sexual awakening, so the sexual experiences she encountered should have been eye-opening and educational, but seemed to be instead just offhand comments that she was expected to understand and accept without any further explanation. For me, the fact that such extreme kinks were just lazily thrown about in the reader’s and MC’s face without actually taking the time to talk about them was a major turn off.

Sex and its constant use and abuse in this book seemed to be more for shock value rather than an effort by the author to explain the thought process and desire behind them. You can’t just tell someone you are dating that you are polyamorous and expect them to be okay with it immediately if they have never even heard of the concept. Such a thing would require some kind of sit-down discussion to go over ground rules and general feelings. Same with any new physical act you want to start in the bedroom. If you want to try bdsm, you start with the basics; don’t jump immediately into a sex party dungeon. Fisting is a major fetish in this book, and Julia isn’t eased into it at all- there’s no mention of practicing or pacing, just all of a sudden it’s her new favorite thing. That’s just absurd.

I severely hope that no one read this book and found it educational about anything, whether it’s lesbian lifestyle or any sexual kink mentioned. Lesbians in this book are all made out to be polyamorous sex gods who desire nothing more than to sleep around and fist each other. There is absolutely no discussion about how much work and trust goes into having a poly relationship. Every single kink you can think of- watersports, bondage, pet play, toys, threesomes, the ever present fisting- is mentioned at least in passing somewhere in this book. None of it is given any extra thought. The only reason it’s whispered about or glimpsed during a sex party is to shock both the reader and the MC. Then again, maybe that was the author’s purpose. The title is, after all, In at the Deep End. Julia only just realized she was gay after having some bad sex with a guy, and immediately after she has her realization she gets sucked into an abusive relationship with a woman who wants to do literally everything- which wouldn’t be a problem except no one eases Julia into each new scenario. They throw her in and let her flounder in confusion and shame. It was really uncomfortable to repeatedly read the same thing happen over and over as Julia went deeper and deeper with Sam. For all the talk of consent, no one ever actually shows Julia the care a newbie would require. The role playing scene in the hotel was one of the cringiest things I’ve ever read, as well as the SM swing.

This isn’t how a healthy sexual relationship should be, kinky or otherwise, and the fact that Sam was an abusive partner doesn’t make it any better. Her emotional abuse as a manipulator was actually written really well- very subtle and coming on stronger and stronger as the story developed. However, Julia wasn’t just an innocent bystander. She was quite manipulative as well and I found it hard to root for her as a character. I’m not sure how I feel about her anxiety rep either. While reading I could relate to her anxious thoughts: the way she would clam up when talking with Sam about anything they’d done or were doing felt genuine and understandable. However, after reading, I feel like the anxiety and therapy were all just ways to make her a more sympathetic character. There had been no real depth to her anxiety problems; just superficial things that everyone can relate to.

I liked Julia’s friends just fine, but the only thing every single person in this entire book talks about is sex, and that doesn’t really leave room for a lot of character development. To be honest, I really wish that the majority of this book hadn’t been taken up by Julia’s relationship with Sam. It felt meaningless considering how little we- and Julia!- actually learn about anything. Instead, I wish the author had allowed Julia to go on an actual sexual awakening. The first 40 pages of this book were so good! Julia was funny and relatable as she lamented about her life. Once she started branching out it got even more interesting, but then she got stuck in a state of constant worry over polyamory and everything new she should have been experimenting with either got bypassed or her initiation was horribly wrong. I wish the people in her dance class had been more informative about the ways of the world. I wish she could have dabbled in different things safely. I realize that’s not what the title implies, but it’s how I feel. If you have to be thrown in at the deep end from the start, you need to at least be given a thorough lesson in how to swim first and why it’s important not to just sink.

Overall, I have to give this at least a 2.5 rating. The humor and Julia's inner dialogue is so good, but everything else fell completely flat for me. I'm a bit confused why the cover is an eye. Shouldn't it have been a fist?

Many thanks to goodreads giveaways and the author for sending me an arc in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Reading Progress

March 31, 2019 – Shelved
March 31, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
April 12, 2019 – Shelved as: giveaway-winner
May 16, 2019 – Shelved as: in-the-wings
May 16, 2019 – Shelved as: arc
June 2, 2019 – Started Reading
June 2, 2019 – Shelved as: contemporary
June 2, 2019 – Shelved as: first-reads
June 3, 2019 – Finished Reading
June 4, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed

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