Jun 19, 2013

Tour Stop! Review: In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow

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?

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes you dive into a novel and it touches you on such a personal level  that it changes your entire perspective. In Too Deep is one of those novels for me.
This may be when you decide if you're going to sacrifice what you deserve for something you settle for.
Grace falls under the spell of Noah, this bad boy with a reputation for treating girls like commodities. Somehow, though, he's different with her, or she lets herself believe.

The truth is, he treats her like crap, and everyone but Grace can see that. He manipulates her, making her believe that her pain is her own fault at times, so on top of her beaten heart, she feels guilt. It's mental abuse, and it sucks.

At times, I felt like I was Grace. I've been in her shoes, so while some may have seen her as weak, I could understand, to a certain extent, what she was experiencing and how she reacted.She was blinded by the belief Noah put into her mind that everything bad that was happening was somehow her fault. I'll admit, as the novel progressed, there were times I was annoyed with her. There were fleeting moments when I thought she'd finally stand up for herself, but she was always, always so afraid. She gave Noah way too many chances, and I was hoping she'd see she had a way out, but it took her a long time and an ocean of tears to get to that point. Grace, despite what Jake might say, was never a strong character. She always gives in despite her fears and better judgement, and even when there is a point when she was no longer blinded, she just keeps making stupid decisions that she knows will hurt her.  She feels like she can't stand on her own without someone holding her up, and it's this that made her weak. She refuses to face her fears, and if I was annoyed, it was because of that.

Grace is one of those characters that readers will either understand or won't be able tolerate. Unfortunately, and I hate to say this, but she may be what breaks the connection to this novel for some readers.

That being said, her character is not what touched me. It was the messages of those around her, those who loved her, that sucker punched me. Jake, for one, is an inspiration. He's too friggin' good to be true, and I love him for it. It's funny how long an experience like Grace's can stick with you. You're constantly afraid of letting people get too close for fear that they will begin to manipulate you - that you won't even know it until it's too late. You're also constantly on the defense, and you always feel like you owe people for their time.

Grace is one lucky girl to have someone like Jake who can make sense of the world she's become so lost in. He makes her believe that people aren't there just to take what they can from you. And in giving her his time, support, and love, that doesn't mean she owes him anything. That's what people who truly care about you do, unconditionally, and believing she's anything less than an amazing person that people would like to spend time with just to be around her is the work of Noah's poison.

The message really slapped me in the face, and at times, I had to put the book down and take a deep breath because of how overwhelmed I was. One thing's for sure: this book brought me to some realizations that never struck before, and I like to think I can see more clearly because of it.

I fell in love with this novel. It was tragic and extremely personal, but it was also hopeful all the way through. It's a book I would definitely recommend, but I would also remind you put yourself in Grace's shoes as you go along and have an open mind about how she's feeling. It can be frustrating, but more often than not, it rings true for a person who's been in her situation.

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.

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Happy Reading Everyone :)


  1. Keely! Thank you so much for this review! I was reading it outloud to my husband this morning and when I got to the paragraph about the people around Gracie ... I lost it! You hit a nail on the head for me with that paragraph. I had to stop reading it outloud b/c my throat closed and I was holding back the sobs! :)
    Thank you for letting yourself connect with Gracie - I know it is painful to relive this situation even through a fictional character...it was painful to write...but you let your guard down to see IN TOO DEEP the way it was intended.
    I think you will enjoy the sequel...you will be refreshed by the Gracie you see and Jake...yeah he's still amazing but they still have a couple hurdles to get over.
    Would love to have you a part of that blog tour as well! :)

  2. Wow what an amazing and heartfelt review! I love it when a book truly resonates with you on such a personal and complete level. So happy you enjoyed it! :)

  3. @Michelle Kemper Brownlow I would love to be a part of the tour for the sequel!! I truly did love In Too Deep and I can't wait to dive back into the characters and see how Grace grows. Thank you!!

  4. @Giselle Thanks! It really is an amazing read!


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