An adventurous debut novel that cross cuts between a competitive college swimmer’s harrowing days in the Rocky Mountains after a major airline disaster and her recovery supported by the two men who love her—only one of whom knows what really happened in the wilderness.
Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university’s nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.
That all changes when Avery’s red-eye home for Thanksgiving makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and Colin Shea, who happens to be her teammate. Colin is also the only person in Avery’s college life who challenged her to swim her own events, to be her own person—something she refused to do. Instead she’s avoided him since the first day of freshman year. But now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could’ve imagined.
In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Claire Kells was born and raised outside Philadelphia. She received a degree in English from Princeton University and a medical degree from the University of California. Currently in residency, she lives and works in the Bay Area. This is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
I’ve always loved the water. My earliest memory is opening my eyes in my neighbor’s pool and seeing the world through this different state of being. It shocked no one when I begged for swim lessons at the age of three—far younger than my older, more adventuresome brothers. When my mother saw me flying off the high dive the summer before kindergarten, she was horrified but not surprised. She wanted to ban me from the pool for a week, but my dad had a different idea: put her on the swim team.
After the crash, my instincts changed. Even the smallest children know not to breathe underwater, but somehow, my mind railed against everything I’d ever known. I thought it was permanent.
I thought fear was forever.
The security line proceeds in its usual torturous fashion: in stops and starts, other people’s luggage tumbling at my feet. After thirty minutes of halfhearted apologies, one of the TSA checkers waves me over.
He holds up my Massachusetts license and smirks. “You sure this is you?”
“Yep.” I force a smile. That picture isn’t my proudest moment: blond hair wild and windblown, eyes bloodshot, freckled skin paler than a baby’s butt. It was February, the week before midterms. Never get your driver’s license issued in February.
“You’re a brunette now.”
“Yep.” Precious seconds tick by.
“Okay,” he says, handing it over. “You pass.”
I take my license and head for the closest lane. A family of six squeezes in right in front of me, juggling Uggs and Disney backpacks and a whole assembly of umbrellas. A toddler empties his pockets and fifty pennies scatter on the floor. I scoop them up while his parents chase down their other kids.
Five interminable minutes later, I’m through the X-ray machine, awaiting the verdict with my shoes off, arms at my sides. “Clear,” the woman says, with the amount of enthusiasm one would expect from someone who’s said it a thousand times today.
The crowds don’t exactly part for me as I run for the gate, but I’ve gotten good at this. Some people run clumsily: handbags flying, suitcases bobbing behind them on carpeted floors. The business-class folks walk with a practiced, efficient grace. I’m somewhere in between: a little stressed but not crazed. Forget dinner, though. I hurry past the bars and fro-yo stands with a lurch in my stomach.
The thing is, I could have avoided all this; I could have been on time, relaxed, enjoying a decent dinner or at least some packaged sushi before my flight. Phil Markey offered me a ride to the airport after practice this morning, which came as a shock because senior guys don’t often talk to sophomore girls—especially sophomore girls who don’t exactly dominate in the pool. I didn’t wonder about it too much, though. A ride with the co-captain? I said yes.
My excitement dimmed when Phil pulled up to my dorm with Colin Shea in the front seat. Colin Shea: serious and quiet and abundantly talented. Scarily talented. I’d avoided him since the first day of freshman year, and the thought of trying to explain why to Phil . . .
So I bailed. My excuse didn’t even make sense—something about carsickness and country music. Phil didn’t care, but Colin noticed. He always notices.
As if on cue, Colin steps out of line at Starbucks just as I’m rounding the corner. He’s paying for a coffee—a venti, in fact. Who buys coffee right before a red-eye? Not just that, but a supersized coffee. He doesn’t even bother with cream and sugar. He thanks the exhausted barista, stuffs the tip jar while she isn’t looking, and jogs up to the gate.
He’s clearly the last one to board. Well, second to last. Why did he wait so long to board? I hope to God he wasn’t waiting for me to show up. Phil knew we were all booked for the same flight to Boston, and Colin has a strange sense of responsibility about him. He probably thinks I’m late because of him. Which is true, but he will never know that.
I’ll give it a minute and board right before they close the doors. Hopefully he’s sitting way in the back somewhere. Some clever finagling scored me a seat in the emergency exit row, and I’m betting Colin just went for the cheapest option.
The gate agent responds to him the same way the barista did: stunned by his size and slick bald head, softened by his smile. She scans his boarding pass, hands it back to him, and even manages a sincere “Have a nice flight.”
When the final boarding announcement sounds overhead, I make my move. The terminal feels more subdued now, almost quiet. Tomorrow, the day before Thanksgiving, the chaos will bloom all over again. A janitor empties huge recycling bins. Two Asian women scrub the countertops of a Panda Express. A bearded man in a tweed jacket sits in one of those massage chairs with his cell phone to his ear, rubbing his temples as the clock creeps toward midnight.
The gate agent offers me an empty customer-service grin, the kind that isn’t meant to be returned. “Have a nice flight,” she says. She’s tired; I’m tired. I’ve averted disaster with Colin Shea and now I just want to get there.
As I round the corner, the cabin door gapes at me. A flight attendant mediates the transition from ramp to plane, where she greets me with a chipper “Welcome!” She doesn’t seem perturbed that I’ve boarded precariously late, but the first-class passengers are. They wring out their hot towels and glare at me like I peed in the complimentary champagne.
I rush past those coveted rows and enter the cramped, dingy quarters known as coach. The scene is familiar: tired parents and wailing babies, old men with canes, college kids sending a few last texts. Personal space doesn’t mean zip in coach. People are leaning on each other, into each other, all over each other. Phil has one of the bulkhead seats. Lucky bastard. He winks because that’s just kind of what he does, and I smile back.
“You made it,” he says.
“Hell, isn’t it?” He gestures vaguely to the chaos brewing behind him.
“A special kind,” I say, trying hard to sell the joke.
He nods and goes back to SportsCenter streaming on his iPad. Not the best of interactions, but not the worst, either. At least he acknowledged me. I was worried he might never talk to me again after the whole carpool fiasco.
After a brief survey of unfamiliar faces, I drop my gaze and power forward. Up ahead, a generously sized man pours into the aisle. He catches me with an elbow, then a knee. No apology. It’s fine. This is just how it goes on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Most people are wrestling with the overhead bins, but a few stare at me as I make my way down the center aisle. One brave-faced teenager actually swivels his head for a greedy look at my butt.
Ten . . . eleven . . . twelve . . . 12F. Window seat. It’s not first class, but it’s not 32B, either. I stop and look up. First order of business is to identify kids in the vicinity: Infants are bad, toddlers a nightmare. There are two of the latter sitting in the rows directly behind me. The little boy in 13E sports a baseball jersey, and 14F is swimming in a pint-size Indian kurta. All four parents flash me the same tentative grin, as if a positive attitude might just be the key to a seamless, whine-free flight. Another boy, maybe six or seven, sits in row 15, but he’s all tuned in to his dad’s electronics. This is a good sign. I just hope the younger boys skipped their naps today so they sleep through the flight.
The only other person in my row is a fortyish guy in an ill-fitting suit. He’s on his cell phone, ordering some poor intern to finalize the paperwork before the holiday. The man looks like he hasn’t cracked a smile since the eighties. I’m glad we’re together, though. He doesn’t seem like the chatty type.
I maneuver past his legs and settle into my coveted window seat. The shade is already up, revealing the nighttime extravagance of SFO and the Oakland skyline in the distance. Yellow lights pepper the hills to the east, disappearing in the hazy divide between sky and headlands. To the west, San Francisco sits in a steepening wall of fog.
The flight attendant leans into my row, pursing her lips with practiced professionalism. But my gaze doesn’t linger on her for very long; it shifts to the six-foot-four, broad-shouldered kid next to her.
I swallow hard. “Yeah?”
“This gentleman will be joining you in the emergency exit row.”
The next seat over, Cheap Suit groans. Colin murmurs a thank-you to the flight attendant and shifts awkwardly into the dreaded middle seat. His legs are long and cumbersome, and he probably used them to barter for a seat in the roomier section. A wave of irritation surges through me. He definitely planned this—saw me walk down the aisle and take my seat, then concocted an excuse about his legs being too long for 32B or wherever he’s supposed to be.
As Colin gets settled in, I make a point of rummaging through my bag. Laptop, e-reader, pens, a ripped swim cap. Some coins and other things I can’t identify just by touch. I continue searching.
Laptop. Perfect. I put my earbuds in and power it up, but the battery’s dead. How did that happen? I go for my phone instead. There’s only one song stored on the hard drive, and it’s a sampler from the phone company, but it will have to do.
So far, so good. Colin straightens his long legs and pulls his elbows in toward his body. For a tall person, he occupies amazingly little space. Most people his size park their elbows on the armrests the second they sit down, obliterating any sense of personal space. A good number of them proceed to nod off and snore or, worse, end up on my shoulder. At least Colin has some awareness of his surroundings. That or he’s trying too hard.
He skims his massive hand over his bald head as he reaches for a dog-eared copy of Great Expectations. Although I’m doing my best to look elsewhere, I can’t help but notice the handwritten plea to return the book if found, with Colin’s name and Dorchester address scrawled on the inside cover. I resist the sudden, inexplicable urge to ask him about this: You’re from Dorchester? When we met over a year ago, he told me he was from Boston. Which isn’t exactly a lie, but Boston makes you think country clubs and old money; Dorchester means you probably learned to swim in a community pool behind a chain-link fence.
I suppose the details don’t really matter. Best to act uninterested, to close my eyes and will the hours to pass. Because they will, and when we land, we’ll go our separate ways.
The lights dim, the tires lurch, and the plane rumbles backward. The grump in the suit barks a final set of commands into his cell phone, while the gentleman in front of me is already snoring. It sounds like his throat is wrestling with his vocal cords, a real battle to the death. I blast the sample music. Slowly, peacefully, the sounds of air travel fade to a muffled drone.
I close my eyes. In six hours, I’ll be there.
I’ll be home.
A gray shore unfolds before me, cast under shadowy gray skies. The scene stretches on forever, sand and sky, two hulking ghosts in a lonesome embrace. The sea laps the shore, oblivious. It washes over my toes, my ankles, my knees. And then it recedes.
A wave is cresting in the distance—black, shapeless, inevitable. Although my mind processes the threat, my body refuses to respond. Muscles won’t contract. Lungs refuse to inflate. Paralyzed, I stare at the wall of water as it swells before me, gathering strength before swallowing me whole—
The wave is not water but sound: human sounds. Crying, screaming. The distant echo of people’s voices pitched with panic.
Gasping, I snap my eyes open and find that I’m not alone on some vast gray shore. I’m in my seat. Plastic tubes dangle from the ceiling. Serving trays rattle in place. The cabin pulses with light, though the sky beyond my window is a grim, starless black.
The man next to Colin has dropped something, and he’s on all fours, crawling toward the front. The plane dips in that direction, pitching all of us forward, like an unbalanced seesaw. I blink a few times, focusing the images, praying they simply disappear—but the sound makes it real. God, the sound . . .
I cover my ears, only to feel the resistance of earbuds. The cord has no weight on the end of it, and in some distant corner of my mind, I consider the consequences of a lost cell phone. Then the plane goes into a dive, and my attention veers to the window.
The shade is still open, providing a pristine view of a great, mocking nothingness. We could be at the bottom of the sea or a million miles out in space—it’s impossible to tell. I press my forehead to the glass, straining for a view of something. Anything. Lights, people, houses, cars. Or maybe a runway beckoning us to land.
But there is nothing out there. I’ve never seen darkness so absolute. We could be anywhere; we could be nowhere.
Oxygen masks bounce on seats like coiled springs. Someone’s leopard-print luggage lands in the doorway between first class and coach. Lights are flickering. Alarms blaring. The whoosh of air threatens to burst my eardrums, even with my earbuds in. I pull them out to face the onslaught of what’s happening.
It occurs to me then, finally, that we’re going down. There are other people sharing this nightmare, two hundred of them, seeing the same horrors and experiencing the same despair and hearing the same staccato beat of air and engines. Our paths were supposed to diverge again in Boston, but they didn’t. We’re here. We’re ending. Together.
I don’t know these people. I don’t love them or care about them or even know their names. Would it be easier if I did? Or would we cry even harder, holding on to the ones we love?
The plane jerks, and my neck snaps back against the seat. A sharp pain rockets through my chest, then fades. I feel a hand on my arm: warm, smooth, steady. And in that moment, everything goes quiet. Calm.
“Are you okay?” Colin.
His voice is smoother than I remember, and it takes me a moment to realize why: The uncertainty is gone. The shyness, too. The facade he uses to navigate our stilted interactions has been stripped away, replaced by a different, stronger, truer person.
In that moment, a single question floats to the front of my mind: Why?
Why is Colin Shea here with me now when he should have been sitting somewhere else? Why isn’t he trying to save himself, as so many others are doing? Why isn’t he calling his mom or dad or someone else he actually cares about?
Why does it suddenly feel like I’ve known him all my life?
My vision clears. I can see his eyes very clearly now: a pulsing, turbulent blue, the color of the sky just before dawn. Dark, but somehow comforting.
“I’m okay,” I say.
He puts the armrest up and grasps my hand, and the panic tickling the back of my throat sinks back down. “I don’t want to die.” I say it more to myself than him, but he must hear me because he squeezes my hand even harder.
“You won’t.” He tightens our seat belts and hands me a pillow that he must have salvaged from the now-empty seat next to him.
“This isn’t mine—”
“I know,” Colin says. “Just try and support your neck.”
The screams rise and fall with the dip of the plane; somewhere, a door slams against something else, and the drink cart tumbles down the aisle. Through all of this, Colin doesn’t just keep his cool; he creates it. The hysteria surrounding us doesn’t touch him.
He thinks we actually have a chance.
“Do you have a phone?” I start ransacking the seat-back pocket, tossing out magazines and life jacket instructions. My hands are shaking and everything looks blurred. “We should try to call someone—”
“We’re not going to die.” He positions the pillow under my neck and places a strong, steady hand in the groove between my shoulder blades. It’s a small gesture, but significant in a world that feels like it’s shrinking. He’s so warm. So steady, too, like he was built for this. Built to be here, in this moment, for reasons I will never understand.
Together, we crouch down as much as our bodies and space will allow. Time stalls, then stands still. Oxygen masks skitter over my back like confused birds. Screams turn to sobs. The plane heaves up, down, sideways. I desperately want to look out the window, to get my bearings. To see one last thing—a star, a house, or maybe just the sky—before I die. Before everything ceases to be.
Instead, I stare at my shoes. A weathered pair of old Nikes, chlorine-bleached from all those hours on the pool deck. One of the laces is untied, but I can’t tie them with my arms locked around my legs. So I just sit there, gazing at the faded Nike swoosh, watching my tears stain the industrial blue carpet. What an awful thing to see right before you die. Soda stains, dust, a dead spider. But I’m too afraid to look at anything else. I’m afraid to even move until Colin says my name and that awful terror recedes again.
We’re only six inches apart, our faces so close I can taste the whisper of peppermint on his breath. He must’ve brushed his teeth after that coffee, which I know is a weird thing to think right now, but it streaks across my mind anyway, a grain of comfort in the chaos.
I’m glad he’s here—someone familiar, if only in the loosest sense of the word. He must be thinking about his actual family: his parents, his siblings if he has any. The people who raised him, their alarms set for five o’clock on Wednesday morning, waiting for him to come home.
The question comes to my lips, unbidden. “Won’t you miss your family?”
He looks at me for a long moment. A pained expression colors his face, then fades. “We’re going to make it, Avery.”
Something about the way he says my name makes me forget the hurtling luggage and blinking lights, even as the plane lurches forward, then dips with a violent shudder. A renewed chorus of screaming goes up. Something hits the ceiling, then drops, limply, onto the floor. I catch a glimpse of someone’s head and close my eyes hard enough to hurt.
An announcement rolls over the speakers, as if it even means anything anymore: “This is your captain. Brace for impact.”
This time the view out the window shows dark pines flitting past us like an accelerated movie reel. A lake glistens in the distance, reflecting the pale light of the moon. This isn’t so bad, I think. To see something so magnificent, so natural, right before we die. I always loved the water: lakes, oceans, pools. I always felt at home there.
Then, I let it all go, finding Colin’s gaze instead. It’s only us now, our paths converging in a spiraling nowhere. As I try to process what it means to be with this familiar stranger, a strange serenity floats over me. It’s as if all the thousands of horrible moments before this one have distilled themselves into something meaningful, something almost like fate. “You have the bluest eyes,” I say.
A lone tear rolls down his cheek, the kind that comes without warning or expectation. I want to touch it. I want to make things right again.
Then, a roar. It sounds like the fingers of God scraping the belly of the plane, a gritty screech that makes my blood hum.
“Don’t be afraid,” he breathes.
And then we hit.
The date screams at me from the hospital white-board: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10.
How did it get to be December tenth?
As I consider this, my nurse bustles in, tells me it’s time for breakfast. She sets the tray on the table, and the stench of processed eggs fills the room. Unlike yesterday, or the days before that, there is no lunch menu this time.
No lunch menu because today I’m going home.
A pile of spare blankets sits in the corner. On the opposite wall, an electrical cord dangles from an unplugged flat-screen TV. I stare at the blank screen for hours on end, picturing the rabid faces of reporters and their sensationalist headlines. The same dated photos of those desolate mountains, recycled over and over again, like an overplayed commercial. I tried to watch different channels. Tried to read books or magazines. And even now, with the hulking thing disconnected, I hear the news and see their faces and wish it all away.
A lady with fire-red hair came by a few days ago to interview me. They brushed my hair and coated my face in makeup, covering the windburn as best they could. Someone handed me a bright red sweater to wear over my hospital gown; someone else helped me button it up.
Up until that point, everything felt almost normal, sitting in this room with my TV on and blue skies out the window and my parents perched on the foot of the bed. Nights were long and dreamless, the sleep of the sedated. Days had become a cycle of breakfast trays and lunch trays and naps. I’d been living in a haze—a warm, hollow, wonderful haze.
Then the lady with red hair started asking me questions.
What was it like when the plane was going down?
How did you make it to shore?
Were you afraid?
And, of course: What happened out there?
In the end, I threw the remote clean through the open window, which her hipster cameraman caught on tape. Two nurses ushered them out of the room. The haze, though, had cleared. After that, I dreamed in biting reds and oily blues. I saw pale, frozen faces, their mouths moving soundlessly, like dead fish. I saw belts with no buckles, and flames with no source, and a lake with no bottom. I saw three little boys, all dead in my arms. And I saw Colin saving someone else.
The doctors tell me this is to be expected. They say forgetting is the brain’s best defense against the psychological devastation of traumatic events, and I’ll be better off if I don’t remember. Maybe the media doesn’t think so, but they don’t have the dreams. They don’t wake up in the dead of night, gripping the sheets and wondering if tonight will be the night we freeze to death. The dreams make me wish I had died in the crash along with so many others. Then there would be no media, no lady with red hair, no questions. There would only be a bleak, logical narrative. A blitz of photos and sad stories. Instead, I’m an asterisk. A question mark. And for all those who celebrate my good fortune, there are others who must be asking, Why her?
My dad walks into the room as I’m wiggling my toes. It’s become a habit, a daily check to make sure they still work.
“Sleep well?” He hands me a steaming cup of coffee. Black, a little weak. I usually take it with cream and sugar, but right now, all I want is warmth. The hot liquid courses through me, makes me feel human again.
“It’ll get better.” Spoken like a true physician. My dad isn’t my doctor here, of course, but my being in a hospital blurs the lines between patient and daughter. He doesn’t say anything to the staff, but he grumbles about my discharge planning to anyone who will listen. Except me. With me, it’s a constant barrage of rehabilitation commands: You should eat more. I want you out of that bed. Being in bed makes people feel even sicker than they are. Do five laps around the unit today. Six tomorrow. And so on. No wonder why I’m so exhausted.
“Where’s Mom?” I ask.
He looks me in the eye as he says, “Avery, I think it’s time—”
“No.” Coffee sloshes over the cup and pricks my thighs. Dad steals it away from me, noting the little red marks on my skin with a practiced eye. When he decides it’s no big deal, he crosses his arms and glares at me.
“This is your last chance to see those boys before we leave.”
“I’ll see them in Boston.”
“I don’t want to see them.” I turn toward the window, hating the tremor in my voice. “The doctors said they don’t remember much anyway.”
If I were one of the patients in his ER, he’d get up and leave. My father doesn’t argue with people. If you don’t give a shit, he doesn’t give a shit. But I’m his daughter, and so he stands there in silence, waiting me out.
“Fine,” he says.
“You don’t want to deal with what happened, that’s your choice. But you’ve got to give them something.”
He walks out to the nurses’ station and returns a minute later with his hands full. He’s alone, thank God, but he has that doctorly, no-nonsense look in his eyes.
“What are you doing?”
“Giving you options.” He lays out an assembly of items: his cell phone, a pen, several sheets of blank paper, three envelopes, car keys, and his iPad. He writes down an address and, beneath it, a phone number.
“That there is all the information you need to contact those boys.”
“I don’t care how you do it. I really don’t. But dammit, Avery, you are not going to leave here like nothing happened. You’re stronger than that.”
The truth is, I’m not strong. A stronger person would have answered the media’s questions in details, and layers, and harsh truths; a stronger person would have found some way to cope. Instead, I told the world a story rooted in denial and self-preservation. Survival. What a magnificent lie.
He nudges the tray table in my direction. “I’ll be back in an hour.”
Right on time, my parents return with my discharge papers. Dad watches me crawl out of bed, a pathetic effort that humiliates me to the core. Mom knows better than to say anything. The wheelchair disappeared days ago, never to be seen again. I suspect he may have hurled it out the window while I was asleep.
“You can walk, right?” he asks.
Not Can you walk? The expectation is clear. He hands me a cardigan and watches me fumble with the sleeves. He doesn’t hurry me, but he doesn’t help me, either.
When the ordeal of getting dressed is over, I tuck three envelopes in my back pocket. Dad gestures to the door. My mother does her best to set the pace, which is slow. Painfully, therapeutically slow. An octogenarian on oxygen passes us in the hallway.
Together, we make our way toward the elevators. I’m about to push the button when my father starts walking toward the stairwell. He just won’t quit.
The stairs, as it turns out, are good therapy. My legs feel stronger with each stride, as if my muscles are finally figuring out how to work again. The cold had made everything so stiff: bones, muscles, joints. My body was starting to shut down.
“Good,” Dad says. “Looking stronger.”
I refuse to acknowledge the veiled compliment as we approach the sliding doors. It’s a long walk to the parking lot, but we take our time. Dad allows breaks—just not very many. He opens the door to the backseat and helps me inside.
“You know the address,” I say.
It’s a twelve-minute drive across town to Children’s. Like most hospitals built for pediatric patients, this one boasts a bright and welcoming facade, with windows so sprawling they shimmer with the reflecting sun. Parents and children and babies and doctors flood the grounds, the kind of chaos that breeds hope.
Dad pulls up to the main entrance; he must have decided I’ve walked enough for one day.
“We’ll park and meet you inside,” he says, leaving no room for an argument.
They drive off toward the lot. My first steps are almost mindless, a battle against nerves and impending doom. I shudder at the whooshing of the front doors, which sound different now that I’ve spent so many hours behind ones just like them.
The waiting room next to the ER pulses with the frenetic fear of the sick and injured. Babies wail. Parents wait with bated breath as the triage nurses call out names.
The letters in my back pocket rustle with each step, a constant reminder of what I’m about to do. It was never supposed to happen this way. I promised it would never happen this way. And yet it has, and it will.
What would Colin think of me now?
I make it to the main desk before the walls start to spin. A woman with an eighties haircut and purple glasses beams at me.
“Hello there, welcome to Children’s. How may I help you?”
I want to say their names: Tim. Liam. Aayu. I can picture myself doing it; I can almost see their faces, their tiny hands, their little bodies swallowed by the duck-themed hospital gowns they put on kids.
“I . . .”
As I stand there, fumbling with the contents of my back pocket, an alarm sounds. It is nothing like the steady patter of heart monitors. This is a shrill, desperate shriek, signaling impending doom.
“Code Blue, room 438. Code Blue, room 438.”
This is your captain. Brace for impact.
And then it’s not just the low drone of a standard announcement but a cruel, suffocating embrace. I’m so cold everywhere, a chill that starts in my feet and rises up, settling at the base of my spine. It feels almost feverish, like ice in my veins.
I turn toward the door, but I’m not fast enough. My legs give out, and the vibrant lights of the hospital turn to shadow. I decide to let it happen because this is who I am now. Damaged. Traumatized. Lost.
Sometimes I wonder if I really survived anything.
It hits me like demon’s breath, angry and sharp. I wasn’t sure what the actual dying part would be like, but this feels all wrong. Everything is too dark. Too noisy. And the cold isn’t a dull passing-over from one place to the next; it bites.
I take a breath, my ribs splintering with the effort. Oxygen finds my lungs.
I’m not dead. I’m not dead.
Icy water is rushing in from somewhere, and it’s already past my knees. My toes are numb, and my fingers are getting there. I try to move them, but my pinkie is broken and the others are damn near frozen solid.
Colin. His fingers are still intertwined with mine, his knuckles whiter than the tray table. I pry them open, but it takes some serious effort. He’s got me in a viselike grip.
“Colin.” I shake him hard. “Colin!”
His size made him an easier target for flying debris, but he seems to have avoided a mortal injury: no obvious head trauma, no penetrating wounds. His shirt, though, is spattered with a decent amount of blood. Selfishly, I hope it’s someone else’s because I want Colin to make it. He needs to make it.
“Colin, wake up—”
“Avery?” His eyes drift open. He’s conscious; he’s alive; he even remembers my name. I squeeze his hand again.
“You were right,” I say, smiling in spite of it all.
He manages a weak grin. “Told you so.”
The whooshing reaches a fever pitch, which spurs me on. I unbuckle Colin’s seat belt and help him to his feet. The shift in gravity seems to rouse him. He grips the seat in front of him, straining for balance as the water swirls around our knees and the ceiling bends toward our heads. Our emergency exit row is horribly compressed, from seat to seat and ceiling to floor. A small fire has broken out nearby, consuming the unfortunate souls in the rows in front of us. The cabin looks like it’s been put through a meat grinder.
We’re barely into the aisle when a soft sob penetrates the chaos. It takes a second for my memory to catch up, to sort through everything that’s happened, before recalling the little boys from earlier: the sleepy Indian boy, the toddler in baseball gear, the six-year-old playing on his dad’s iPad. The younger two are crying as they cling to their mothers’ lifeless bodies. The older boy peers over the seats, his dad’s iPad still clutched in his hand. He meets my gaze with startling intensity, his eyes pleading with me to do something.
“Can you get the boys?” Colin’s voice pierces the roar of rushing water.
The boys. How can I possibly just “get the boys”? They don’t know me, let alone trust me. I will have to physically tear them away from their parents.
“Yes,” I hear myself saying. “Yes, I’ll get them.”
Colin twists out of the row, grimacing as he puts weight on his left leg. “I’ll check the back. See if anyone’s alive back there.”
I nod, too dazed to argue. As Colin heads for the rear, I dodge beams and wires and other debris in an effort to reach the boys. The younger ones tug on their mothers’ shirts as I unbuckle their belts and scoop them up. The older boy comes with less resistance, but he refuses to abandon his shattered iPad. I gather them together in the emergency exit row, as far from the rushing water as possible. It’s a losing battle. The rear of the plane is almost underwater, the aisle lights flickering into oblivion. We’re going to sink—not like the Titanic, nose up, but like a giant car, dragged down flat and fast, weighed down by its undercarriage.
“Stay here a minute,” I say to the oldest one.
His eyes widen, the iPad forgotten as it plunks into the water. “No, please!” He grabs my arm, his hand small but strong.
I don’t have any experience with little kids. I’m the youngest of four, an afterthought in a family of boys. Babysitting was never my thing. Preschools terrify me; elementary schools give me nightmares. Just looking at this boy makes me feel adrift.
“I’m sorry, but . . .” I try to meet the boy’s gaze. “I have to help him.”
With a sigh, he lets his hand fall. “Okay,” he whispers.
He watches me as I head toward the rear, bypassing a dozen decimated rows. The vast majority of passengers are dead. Some are unconscious. A doomed few are trapped, and they scream at me as I try to cut their seat belts or move a piece of debris. Their raw desperation roars in my ears. I can’t bear to apologize; I just move on to the next person, hoping his or her luck was somehow better. Because really, the random placement of glass and metal and broken parts feels like nothing more than luck—good luck, bad luck, no luck at all. I know I was lucky. Not because I managed to evade a hulking beam of steel, but because I was sitting next to Colin.
The younger boys are wailing by the time I make my way back to the emergency exit row. The littlest one climbs over the seat, trying to reach his mother. I pluck him out of harm’s way and hold him close to my chest.
“Colin, we have to go—”
“Just a few more,” he says, and dives into each row, yanking on seat belts and calling out to unconscious strangers. He pushes aside glass and debris and toys and magazines. Luggage and purses bob in the water like candy apples.
“Colin!” I scream until my throat is raw. The water swirls around my knees, rising at a fervent pace. With every passing minute, it gains on us.
At what feels like the last possible moment, Colin surfaces in the region of row 20. He’s got a pregnant woman under his left arm, but she doesn’t look conscious. As he lumbers up the aisle to reach us, I fight my way to the front, hoping to God there’s a way out up there.
Suddenly, the splashing behind me stops. I turn around and see Colin studying the seats in what used to be the bulkhead, but the front wall has collapsed on top of them. The first row of coach is completely gone.
It hits me at the same time: Phil.
Together, we move aside as much debris as we can. The skeleton of the plane is exposed, wires sparking overhead. The bulkhead weighs more than a block of cement, but somehow, Colin gets it to move.
Phil is clearly dead. The left side of his skull has a sunken look, his hair matted with blood. His eyes, at least, are closed. Maybe he was asleep when it happened; maybe he died instantly. It’s a small comfort, but better than the alternative.
“Jesus,” Colin murmurs. For the first time, he looks shaken. He lets the bulkhead wall shift gently back into place, turning away at the last possible second as Phil’s face disappears.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
He nods, dazed. I want to say something else, something more substantive than a standard apology, but there is nothing to be done. Colin knows this as well as I do. And so we move on, toward the front. Toward salvation, if there is any.
The first-class cabin looks like a war zone. In some places, the ceiling has been compressed to almost floor level. Windows cracked, glass floating on the surface. The luxurious first-class seats are almost submerged, along with the passengers strapped into them. Blond hair floats up and around us like jellyfish tentacles. I cover the boys’ eyes and push them past the bodies.
Overhead, a series of lights flicker, then die. A low rumble echoes beneath our feet. “Do you think there’s a way out up there?” Colin points toward the cockpit.
I don’t know. But if I’ve learned anything from the last twenty minutes with Colin Shea, it’s that you have to sound like you do know. “This way.” I point to the left. It’s impossible to see much of anything in any direction, but up there, the windows look broken and the currents are calm. We’re going to need both to swim out of here.
I hand one of the boys to Colin and hold on to the other two. It’s much harder exploring the situation with my hands full, but Colin already has the pregnant woman to worry about, and he can only manage so much.
The water continues to rise. Chest, collarbone, neck. I hold the boys above the waterline so they can breathe. One of them cries again for his mom, and I try not to think of my own mother, asleep in her bed. Oblivious.
“Avery, hurry . . .” Colin calls out behind me.
Something in the paneling gives way as the water churns behind us. I kick hard against what remains, expanding a small opening just wide enough for us to swim through. Colin gives a nod, which I take to mean, You lead. I follow.
The boys, though, are more reluctant, their tiny bodies tensing in my arms. I try to convince them this is a game, something all the polar bears do. With some gentle coaching, they take a deep breath. Please let it be enough.
As soon as we’re under, I kick harder than I ever have, a powerful dolphin kick followed by a frantic fluttering of my legs and ankles. The boys squirm in my arms. I push off the paneling and rocket upward, though there is no light to guide me, no real sense of up or down. Just instinct.
My lungs are bursting, chest aching. The water is ice, a cold fire that digs in and doesn’t let go.
One final kick, and the surface gives way to a sprawling sky. Oxygen fills my lungs. The boys surface a split second later—one of them gasping for air, the other silent and still. I think on this for only a moment before focusing my attention on Colin, on the quiet, black waters where he should be.
“Come on, Colin,” I whisper, willing him to hear me. The moon has passed behind the clouds, shrouding our surroundings in absolute darkness. The air is cold and raw, the shore cast in shadows. There are no lights peppering the distant horizon, no signs of civilization at all. We could be anywhere.
We could be nowhere.
As this thought bleeds through me, Colin finally surfaces. It takes a moment to decide he’s real, to accept that we made it out of that plane. He waves at me, affirming the same thing, and we swim for land, side by side, holding on to other people’s children. Only when the clouds part again and the moon filters through the haze do I see the trees up ahead, yawning over the lake like ghosts.
On the brink of total exhaustion, my foot hits something. Rocks, pebbles.
Colin reaches dry land first, then runs back into the water to help me. He hoists the boys out of my arms, and one of them starts wailing. But the other boy, the one in the vibrant, torn kurta, doesn’t so much as stir in Colin’s arms.
“Breathe,” Colin says, as he lays him down. “You gotta breathe.” He gets down on his knees and gives the boy a gentle breath, careful not to damage his tiny lungs. I pump his chest with one hand as my father taught me—up and down, up and down—while Colin breathes for him. After two minutes, we switch. The older boy has stopped crying, but he watches us with naked horror.
Then, a shudder. A wet, feeble cough. I scoop him up, stroking his face as his mother would have done. The color returns to his cheeks.
“You’re okay,” I whisper. “You’re okay.” I rock him for a long time, telling myself that we saved him and three others and that should be enough. But the truth is, it’s not enough. Not even close. As the wing sinks beneath the surface, releasing a slow gurgle as it disappears, I can’t help but think about the two hundred souls we left behind.
Colin gives my shoulder a gentle shake. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I say, dazed. “Are you?”
He nods, though I’m not entirely convinced this is the truth.
With the boys watching, Colin reaches into his pocket and pulls out a penlight. A surprisingly robust white beam scatters across the water, finally coming to rest on the face of the oldest boy, tall and thin with pale green eyes. He allows the tiniest of smiles.
“Is that a . . .”
Colin nods. “Penlight. Found it in a seat-back pocket.”
Colin hands it to me, and I shine the light on each of the boys again, just to triple-check they’re okay. Then I flash it on Colin, and the air leaves my lungs.
His leg is a bloody, mangled mess, the pant leg shredded below the knee. I lean over it, inhaling a whiff of blood and lake water. He tries to shrug it off, but this is no minor scrape. No wonder he was so dazed after impact. He’s lost a lot of blood.
“Can I have a look?” I ask.
“It’s fine. I can walk on it.”
“If it makes you feel better, I have a little bit of training in, uh, this kind of stuff.”
“Plane crash injuries?” His wince betrays the hint of a smirk.
“Sort of.” I try to sound as nonthreatening as possible. “Just a quick look.”
He reluctantly offers his leg, which looks like a ragged piece of meat under the light. It’s a mess of blood, gristle, and muscle, probably the result of a stray piece of debris. At least the bones look intact—nothing broken, at least not from what I can see. And he didn’t nick an artery: no spurts of blood, no high-velocity gushes. I’ve seen arterial wounds on Take Your Daughter to Work Day—which for me was Traumatize Your Daughter at Work Day. Now I’m starting to understand why my father made me watch all those gruesome trauma activations.
“I can’t see how you can walk on this—”
“I can,” he says. “I just did.”
The look on his face ends the discussion. We round up the crowd, encouraging the boys to walk if they can. The pregnant woman, who looks even more pregnant on dry land, is still unconscious. Colin drapes her over his shoulder like he’s carrying a heavy burlap sack. He tries hard not to limp, but it’s a struggle. With blood oozing from the wound, he finally agrees to let me dress it. I use a scarf that washed up on shore and pray it holds.
The air, at least, is oddly still. The only signs of wind are the rustling of leaves and small waves lapping the shore. The temperature, too, is mild for November, although that can change. I don’t know where we are, but I hope it’s a small state park a few short miles from suburbia. I hope to God it isn’t the Rockies.
“Here okay?” Colin stops and looks up. The brush is tangled and thick, overgrown with moss and spidery vines. The trees beyond it seem to stretch toward an infinite sky. If it rains—or, worse, snows—we might at least avoid the brunt of the storm.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Girl Underwater
"Skillfully interspersing flashbacks with current events, debut novelist Kells has written an absorbing tale that will grip anyone who enjoys survival stories or psychological dramas." - Library Journal (starred review)
"Kells's visceral story is quite memorable and eminently readable." Publishers Weekly
"With its subzero temperatures that will make you reach for a blanket and a wounded but never weakened heroine, Kells' assured debut is a winner." Kirkus
"What if the most devastating moment of your life was also the beginning of something beautiful? Girl Underwater is a compelling coming-of-age love story that will have you rooting for its teen narrator, a girl who survives a disaster, and finds herself trapped between a traumatic past and a fragile future. Trust medive in!" –Jodi Picoult, New York Times Bestselling author of The Storyteller and Between the Lines
“A powerful love story embedded in an action-packed tale of survival. Even as the characters are fighting for their lives, it’s impossible to turn away from the breathtaking range of emotion they reveal.” –Tracey Garvis-Graves, author of On the Island and Covet
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A chilling survival novel. The writing is well-crafted giving the reader just the right elements of psychological drama, fear, pain and loss that make a terrific read. The disaster scenes are so real I could literally feel the characters pain as they tried to survive in arctic like conditions with no emergency gear. I was literally freezing when I read those chapters. There is much more to this story than just survival. It closely looks at the aftermath that follows. The book would be great for book clubs because after you finish reading you really want to discuss it. It was refreshing to have a complete story in one book. I look forward to purchasing this author's next book. Jp
The storyline, characters and writing are brilliantly done, especially for a first-time author. Do yourself a favor and experience this young woman's ordeal, a journey into growth, survival and discovery of a life worth living!
Enjoyed the story and description
Avery Delacorte is an accomplished swimmer, a 19 year-old young woman who has excelled in her sport beyond high school into college. Still, she’s a typical gal when it comes to romance and Colin Shea, a college friend, has always encouraged her to move beyond her current level of competition. So far she has refused but that is all about to change. On her flight home to Colorado, she realizes that the plane she’s on is about to crash land in the Rocky Mountains area. Five members of the flight initially survive, Avery, Colin and three young boys. In the beginning, it doesn’t seem so bad as the group eat the remainder of the snacks they find, attempting to build a type of hut to survive the bitterly cold and snowy weather they know will come soon, and so on. But the tough part of their journey is yet to come. No spoilers here but suffice to say when they are finally rescued, they aren’t together. All have serious physical injuries and the post-traumatic syndrome they each suffer is very real. Claire Kells has got it down pat the way she depicts Avery’s long road back to a semblance of normalcy. At times she tries to convince everyone she’s fine and at other times she’s still physically falling apart and trying to deal with a secret she shares with no one. She will eventually meet up with Colin and several secrets will come out and their relationship will be very different from what it was before their nightmare crash. Girl Underwater… is a superb contemporary novel about surviving and a love that defies description because of what it has endured. It is said that the young are resilient which in this novel is true but only after each survivor tells his or her story and shares the process of healing and growing into a new life in which one moves on but will never forget the most traumatic, definitive crisis one could ever experience. Fine writing, Claire Kells, and highly recommended for readers of all ages!
I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review. What a really great debut novel by Claire Kells! I knew this book was about a plane crash and it would be emotional, but I didn't expect it to suck me in so much! I was really touched by how well this was written and how much the author dove into the feelings and after effects of a plane crash. Avery and Colin have to learn to survive in the middle of nowhere with three small children. Their skills are put to the test when they realize that help won't be coming any time soon. Avery is a tough character. She's terrified about what is going on, but knows she has to be strong for the children and Colin. And Colin is her rock; he gives her the courage and fight to push through the tough days. I really like these two characters together. Avery clearly has feelings for him, but she tries to push them away. I was quite surprised with this book and I must say, Claire Kells has a new fan! I can't wait to see what else she comes out with as her career flourishes, which I'm sure it will. If you pick up this book, be ready for an emotional, harrowing journey.
ARC kindly provided by Random House Australia via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Review Girl Underwater is a realistic novel about surviving in the wild and what comes after, how to live with your fears and finally vanquish them - with lots of help along the way. I've never read a novel centred on a plane crash before - but this one was a real, good one. I remember seeing it on Netgalley and thinking, "Oooh! Please allow my request!" It a real toucher. From the moment the plane crashes, my chest was a well of emotions that wouldn't ease. And the way Claire Kells writes the story - you'd think she did it before but she hasn't and it wasn't until I reached the end that I found out it was a debut. I would tell you my favourite parts, but there are just too many. And the characters? Well, you'll fall in love with all of them. (Well maybe excluding some, but you know why I mean.) The novel is written using flashbacks from Avery's life before the crash, during and after the crash as well as the present time, which is after the crash. I remember being totally confused at first, but this just added to the tension that should have lasted until Avery and Collin were saved but instead spanned the whole book. The ending? Well, that's something you will have to find out for yourself but let me tell you it was EPIC! Girl Underwater isn't just about some college student who loves to swim, it's about how her whole life turned to shambles but in the end it all came together with help from some pretty amazing people when she just let go. Congratulations Claire Kells on a masterfully written and published novel. Bravo! Rating Plan 1 star : Strongly did not like the book, writing and plot was bad. Idea of the book was against my liking. 2 star : Didn't like it, didn't find it interesting or gripping. Seemed to drag on to me. 3 star : An average book. Wasn't bad or good. Everything else was well done. Original idea. 4 star : Like a 3 star but has potential to it as a series or the book grew on me as it progressed and certain scenes captured me. I Enjoyed it and read it in one sitting. 5 star : I LOVED IT! I stayed up late until 3 am. Author is a genius, characters, plot, idea, development, EVERYTHING was EXCELLENT. Nothing else can possibly be said except that its 5 STAR!
I have watched my fair share of movies featuring an airplane crash, Castaway and The Grey being ones that have affected me the most as a viewer. Those scenes and their aftermath scared me to death and rightfully so. Airline disasters are no laughing matter. But I had never read about one in a book, well not until now. Girl Underwater is told through the perspective of nineteen-year-old Avery, who is one of five crash survivors who have become stranded in the wilderness. It is a story of the struggle to survive both physically and emotionally during and after trauma. Fortunately, the actual crash is not explicit, but the moments before and after take the reader right to the scene. Author Claire Kells writes alternating past and present scenes as the story progresses, so every step Avery takes in trying to emotionally recover brings the reader right back to the disaster that won’t let her go. I enjoyed the characters and the environment Ms. Kells presented, and I found the mild romance element to be an engaging addition to the story. In my opinion, Ms. Kells' writing style gives readers a glimpse of what it may possibly feel like to suffer from a trauma-related disorder like PTSD. Readers live flashbacks and trauma re-experiencing right along with Avery and it broke my heart. “Now everyone knows my secret. Everyone knows that I’m not ready. I’m not even OK. I’m still in that lake, searching for rescue.” Avery’s emotions are palpable and Ms. Kells shows how her ongoing response to this devastating experience impacts every area of her life, but I was happy to see the continued theme is in fact survival. She survived the crash, she survived the Rocky Mountains, but the question is if she will survive the very emotional journey of life following trauma. I thought Girl Underwater was an excellent debut novel from an author I will be keeping my eye on. Just a heads up though: This novel ends without much closure; however, Avery’s future was hinted at strongly enough that, as a reader, I was left satisfied. I would recommend it. Give it a try! My favorite quote: “I spend the fading weeks of summer at my old desk, laptop cast aside, hands cramping despite the stress ball on the shelf. Two pens have already run out of ink. The stack of paper next to my weathered paperbacks dwindles by the hour. I write until dawn breaks over the city. I write until if feels like I can’t possibly write another word. I write until my sorrow turns to pain, and then I know I’m getting somewhere.”
Is there a sequel?!?!!! This was a very good book, I know that because I spent the whole day reading it, and finished later in the day!!!!!! :)
This book has been in my library a LONG time.... Finally opened it and wanted to love it but I can't love a book when I know the ending from the beginning... I know that the three little boys and the two college swimmers survive the horrific plane crash that took so many lives in a mountainous lake in Colorado... So how can I properly enjoy/suffer the story of their survival when I already know they are safe at home in Boston... Other than that the story of courage and the will to survive is excellent.,.,. The love story is what you would expect and the happy ending is great for all except those who did not make it out of the plane...
Fascinating portrayal of surviving members of plane crash. Couldn't stop reading. Looking forward to author's next book.
Wanted to read more.
Easy read that kept me intrigued from the beginning. Very well written. Just such a good story with honest characters. Highly recommend.
Loved it. Would highly recommend.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A survival story that was so unique and I loved it. Avery is on a plane headed home for a holiday break from college and a guy that she isn't too thrilled about ends up in the seat next to her and as the plane is going down she may be glad that he is there. The two of them and three little boys survive the crash, but will they survive the wilderness. I loved how this book was written. I will be a little vague in my review as to not spoil one iota of this book! So let me say - I loved it. There is some interesting way that each chapter fits together and I really enjoyed how the story flowed.
Truly moving....well done.
Dollycas’s Thoughts This is a little different from what I usually read of late but when I saw the praise even from Oprah, I knew I needed to read this book. I have read several of her recommendations over the years. Avery Delacorte and Colin Shea are on their college swim team, acquaintances not friends. They and one other team member are on a plane heading to Massachusetts from California for their holiday break. Shortly after takeoff the plane starts to malfunction and crash lands in a lake in the Rocky Mountains. Surviving the crash using their athleticism and swimming talents they are able to rescue a woman and 3 little boys. They know they are going to have to work together to survive until help can come. The story rotates back and forth in time, after the crash and after the rescue with Avery telling the story so readers know she does survive. It is an extraordinary story about what it took to survive, but recovering after they are rescued is much harder on Avery even though Colin was the one more physically injured. As the story continues we finally find out why. This is an adventure novel in that is was adventure to survive the crash and persevere until they are rescued but it a gripping suspense novel and an emotional roller coaster read as well. A life changing experience that will keep you up reading late into the night. The characters are so realistic. Avery matures from a young college co-ed unsure of herself to a confident young woman when faced with a do or die situation and then reverts back to the young adult she truly is as she tries to understand and deal with the trauma. Her father was tough on her while growing up and the skills he taught her proved to be very valuable. After he needs to be tough with her again so she can find her way back to the life she was meant to live. It is classified by some as a coming of age/young adult story, Kells has kept the romantic and traumatic situations age appropriate for that, but older adult readers like me will find this a compelling read as well. That is why I classify it more Women’s Fiction with Suspense/Romance as sub-genres. I have to mention this is Claire Kells debut novel so she is an author to watch. This story was incredible and she has a clear voice. I hope she has another story coming out soon.
"Girl Underwater" by Claire Kells has already been published so you can go scoop it up right now and start reading this terrific thriller right away. Astonishingly, this is Claire Kells' first book! This is a story about survival in the thick of a crisis and afterwards when one has to deal with the fallout from enduring something horrific. Avery Delacorte is a sophomore at a California University, she is an Olympic hopeful swimming in a nationally ranked team. She is happy, she may not be swimming the events she wants but she feels good about her life. She has a boyfriend, she is popular and she's finally broken away from her suffocatingly successful family. Avery is the youngest child, the only girl. Her three older brothers are hugely successful, one is a million dollar baseball player, another one is in Hollywood. Finally she's making her own way in California, so many miles away from Brookline, the wealthy part of Boston, Mass. Her teammate Colin Shea thinks she should fight for what she wants, to swim the 1500m. But what does he know, Avery thinks. He's the next Michael Phelps, he can choose whatever he wants when it comes to his swimming career. Avery just wants to fit in. She actively avoids Colin on campus because of this conflict. Avery is forced to spend 6 hours with him though when he sits beside her as they fly home over Thanksgiving break. She will become grateful for his switching seats to sit beside her when the plane crashes in the bitterly cold Rocky mountains. He tells her they will survive as the plane crashes into a cold lake. Avery believes him, she holds onto Colin's words as her primary comfort. Only five souls survive the plane crash. Colin, Avery and three little boys. Now they have to survive the freezing weather where everything they can scavenge from the sinking plane is wet, they have little food and no shelter. How does one overcome these extreme conditions? And if you do survive, how do you deal with the aftermath, the physical and emotional pain that follows victims of tragedy. This is a five star book. I will certainly be seeking out Claire Kells' future books because this one was so stellar. I found myself grabbed from the first page. Kells has written her characters so expertly that I felt connected to Avery and Colin immediately. I could see myself feeling just like Avery as she struggles to help them all survive. The novel moves back and forth through time so the reader feels immersed in her survival before she's rescued and after as she deals with the psychological trauma of the event. I couldn't put this book down, since this story alternates from past to present I know Avery survived but I felt an immeasurably strong need to get to the end of her story. Kells is a terrific writer, she created great tension between Avery and all the people around her. It seemed as though no one could understand her pain. It made the book a visceral experience. Hopefully Claire Kells will write another book soon because I couldn't recommend this one more strongly. It's a beautiful story of survival.
This book is WONDERFUL. So much so, that I am buying my own copy after having read a friend's hardcover edition. I simply wanted to devour every word to the end. Now I want to go back and re-read to more slowly to savor the story details while knowing the ending. Looking forward to more books from this author.
With the many questions posed from the beginning of the book, I had a really hard time stopping at any point to accomplish other tasks. Nearly every other chapter was a flashback and would only answer the reader's (AKA me) questions sparingly as you followed along. Frustrating, because I couldn't stop reading, but a compelling tactic by the author. I was fully invested in the lives of the survivors and what would become of the relationships forged so strongly while stranded in the mountains. Each character was developed well, but I was completely endeared to Colin and his quiet calm, yet commanding presence. He just might be my favorite book hero/male love interest to date. I know how I wanted the story to evolve, so I was smacking the book and quietly yelling "no" when the story unfolded opposite to my expectations. Fortunately, in the end I was satisfied, even delighted. Thanks heavens for prologues! I look forward to more from this author.
Avery Delacorte is a college swimmer on a Thanksgiving flight home from San Francisco to Boston when the plane crashes in the Rocky Mountains. Only she, her teammate Colin, and three little boys survive. The story switches between her months of recovery and the immediate aftermath of the crash. This narrative style works extremely well in keeping you on the edge of your seat. Told entirely from Avery's point-of-view, we plummet into PTSD and her struggle to overcome it. Parallel to this challenge is a romantic subplot involving the stoic Colin and Avery's conflicted feelings for him, both before and after the crash. I have to admit, I couldn't put this book down. A very well-crafted story!
Great read! Couldn't put it down