Published by Macmillan Children's Books on April 7th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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“Forgiving you will allow me to forgive myself.”
Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then herself.
But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.
When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.
Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.
Underwater is a beautiful book about courage and picking yourself up after adversity. It’s a short book that packs quite the punch and will have you rooting hard for the main character within a couple of chapters. The book follows Morgan, a girl who’s become an agoraphobic after something that she experienced at school half a year ago. The traumatic experience coupled with her alcoholic father causes her so much stress that she’s unable to leave her house. But when Evan moves in next door, Morgan is unable to ignore his presence because he’s full of life and represents everything that she wants to be. Slowly, she comes out of her nest and conquers her fears.
I really loved this book. It’s full of character development and all the emotional goodness that I love in a contemporary novel. However, I do have to say that I didn’t connect with it as much emotionally as I thought I would and that was what brought down my rating. I wasn’t as invested in Morgan’s story as I wanted to be and even though I was rooting for her throughout the book, I didn’t particularly care for her that much. I did really like her recovery story though and thought the development of it was really well done. I enjoyed the mystery behind the traumatic event that happened and, even though it was easy to guess what had happened, I thought the reveal was done super well and there were a few things that still surprised me. I also enjoyed that the book explored her father’s alcoholism and PTSD but I did feel at times that it was one too many issues. The two issues weren’t really integrated very well and I felt that the novel cycled through the two separate issues without really intertwining or tying them together in the story.
“Your heart needs comfort and reassurance. Give it that. Don’t be a victim. Be a survivor.”
Even though I didn’t particularly connect with Morgan, I still thought she was likeable and enjoyed reading from her perspective. She’s a vulnerable character but she also has an inner strength that pushes her to get better, not only for those around her but for herself too. She has weak moments and pushes those around her away but she learns from her mistakes and becomes a better and stronger person as a result. I really liked how she interacted with her mother and younger brother, Ben. I thought their family dynamic was wonderful and Ben was probably my favourite of all the characters in the book. He was just ridiculously cute and had an amazing fun-loving personality.
He grabs me around the neck and holds on tight. “Rawwwwwr. I’m a dinosaur. I’ve got you. Rawwwwwr. You can’t get away.”
What I was less of a fan of was the romance in the book. There’s insta-love and I really didn’t like how quickly they became interested in each other. Evan does help break Morgan out of her shell by inadvertently reminding her of the person she used to be but it felt a little bit “love cures all” at the beginning. This did get better as the book progressed though because Evan was absent for most of the middle section. Morgan did most of her developing and healing without him, which I appreciated a lot, but I do wish that Evan hadn’t been in the book at all. Having said that, I did like Evan as a character… mostly. He had a few petty moments that made me want to hit him across the face, but overall I thought he was a good support system for Morgan during her recovery.
Underwater was a great issue book that explored a wide range of important issues. It was a short and quick read but definitely still achieved what it set out to do. I enjoyed the characters and the familial relationships in this book but didn’t really connect with the romance or the emotional aspect of the story.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book.
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