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 forgivefirst 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.
About the Author
Marisa Reichardt lives in Southern California with her family.
Read an Excerpt
By Marisa Reichardt
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2016 Marisa Reichardt
All rights reserved.
I just moved. Not from one town to another, but from one end of the couch to the other end. I don't usually sit on this side, but I'm trying to listen in on the apartment next door. I'm rather particular about where I sit because I like things to be to the left of me. I need to be able to see what's there.
The walls of our two-bedroom apartment are thin and covered in the standard off-white paint of a rental unit, but I still can't make out the words on the other side. I can only decipher the pitch of the voices.
One is high.
One is low.
And then I hear feet hitting the linoleum floor and the noise of the screen door as it slaps open followed by the double bang of it shutting back into place.
Someone knocks on my door. Their knuckles thrum against the flimsy wood, and the echo of it rings hollow through my apartment.
Yes, I can open the door. But I can't cross the threshold. That's my rule: Nothing will ever hurt me if I don't cross the threshold.
I press my shoulder against the door and grab hold of the knob. "Who is it?"
"I don't know you."
"No kidding." He laughs. "I just moved in next door."
I peek through the peephole. It offers up a long, distorted version of whoever is out there. It's not the best view, but I can tell his hands are empty. That's good.
Even though Evan will eventually segue from new person to neighbor, I'm not eager to get the introduction ball rolling. This kind of attitude is exactly what guarantees that, by the end of the month, Evan will think of me as the weird chick with the frizzy hair who never goes outside. I'm pretty sure that's what everyone else in my apartment building thinks of me. They leave every day, and I stay here. They come home, and I'm still here doing the same thing. But right now, Evan doesn't know all of that, so I should probably open the door even though the thought of it makes my hands sweat. I pull it open a crack. A tiny crack.
Evan is cute.
And he looks my age.
The peephole didn't do him justice.
He runs his hand through his hair. It's fluffy and brown with golden sun-bleached tips. His skin is tan, sun-drenched like his hair, and his nose is peeling. He must've moved from the beach. Literally. Like, he had a hut on the sand. Something about the way he smells makes me want to stay near him. He reminds me of things I miss. I breathe him in, relishing the aroma of earth and ocean and bonfire smoke.
"Um, hey," he says. "Are you sick or something?"
I consider shutting the door in his face. How can he call me out so fast?
"Why?" I can hear the edge in my voice, the back-offness to my tone. It's enough to make him straighten up and push back on his flip-flopped feet.
"Sorry. It's just — it's Wednesday. Shouldn't you be at school? Are you home sick?"
Of course he meant was I physically sick, like with pneumonia or explosive diarrhea. Not mentally sick.
"Why aren't you at school?" I say.
"Because I'm moving in today and starting school tomorrow." He says this like I should get it. "I can't do both at the same time."
I realize I'm not being the most welcoming neighbor. "Sorry," I mumble. "I don't do well with strangers."
"Does the fact that I now live next door make me less of a stranger?"
"Okaaay." He runs his hand through his hair again like he's frustrated. But also like he's trying to understand. It's the same way my mom looked at me on Thanksgiving four months ago when I told her I couldn't take the trash out to the Dumpster anymore.
"What was it you wanted?" I ask.
He shakes his head, and one of those golden-tipped curls comes loose and falls down over his eye. He shoves it back behind his ear. "Is that your car out back with the tarp on it? It says 207 on the space number. That's you, right?"
"Cool, because my mom needs me to unload the U-Haul. I don't want to scratch your car. Can you move it?"
My heart rate speeds up instantly. It pounds through my chest like rain on the roof. Evan can probably hear the fast and furious thump of it. I wipe my palms against my flannel pajama pants and grasp for excuses. I actually feel like I'm stretching up, reaching for apples on a really high branch.
"I can't. I'm sick. I can't leave. I can't move my car."
I can't. I can't. I can't. It's my mantra now.
Evan looks at me. Brow creased. Perplexed. "Wait, I thought you just got mad at me for assuming you were sick. Now you really are sick?"
"Yep." I cough. "Super sick. And it's really contagious. You probably shouldn't get too close."
He scoots back a couple inches. In the courtyard below, the sunlight smashes against the surface of the swimming pool and shoots a reflection at Evan's feet so it looks like he's standing in a puddle. "You don't wanna move your car?"
"But like I said, it's in the way."
"How about if you move it?" Yes, brilliant. Good job, Morgan. Being quick on my feet is a skill I'm getting progressively better at as the months pass.
"You want me to move your car? You just called me a stranger five seconds ago. What if I steal it and sell it on Craigslist?"
"You won't. Let me get the keys."
I shut the door and grab the keys from the rack my mom hung in the kitchen after one too many mornings of frantically searching the apartment for lost keys. When I crack the door back open, my breath catches again, because he really is cuter than he should be.
Stop it, Morgan.
I hold the keys up to Evan, but when he reaches in to grab them, my body goes on high alert.
I drop the keys at my feet.
He bends over, calm and steady, eyes on mine the whole time, as he reaches past the threshold to grab them.
His fingertips graze my bare toes.
I jump back.
I breathe fast.
He stands up.
He straightens out.
"Hey, is the pool heated?" he asks. "Or am I gonna freeze my face off if I jump in?"
The pool. I try to ignore it. It taunts me. But I can practically feel the cool water sliding through my fingers and down my back as soon as Evan mentions swimming. I imagine him yanking off his shirt and jumping in. Then I try to unimagine it.
"It's warm enough, but it's too short to get a good workout. And too shallow to pull off a flip turn. Plus you have to scoop the leaves out yourself."
"You sound like you know something about swimming. Are you on a team?"
"Oh. Why not?"
"Because. Just bring the keys back whenever, okay? Or, if you sell it, bring me the cash."
"I'll get you a good deal." He laughs. "I don't back down too easy."
I shut the door and hope my car will start. My mom takes it out once in a while to keep it running, but it's old. She's actually threatened to sell it. She says we could use the money. I'm pretty sure she's bluffing. For her, selling my car would be the same as giving up. She'd rather hang on to hope.
* * *
My mom hopes I'll go back to school when it's time to be a senior.
I do online high school now. Going to my other school got to be too hard. I can't control things out in the real world. Cars turn corners too fast. Doors slam. People appear out of nowhere. It's unpredictable.
I don't like unpredictable.
Home is predictable enough. Until just now when I realized we have new neighbors. And there's a teenager like me next door. Well, not really like me, because I'm pretty sure Evan actually leaves the house. He looks like he surfs and watches bands play at crammed clubs with entrances in backstreet alleys that require secret passwords. He looks like he rides his skateboard in the empty parking lots of places in town that have gone out of business or zooms down steep hills for an adrenaline rush. So not really like me at all.
Because he has a life.
I go to school online and eat tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch every day.
I form an assembly line along the coffee-stained Formica of the kitchen counter just the way my dad taught me. Bread. Butter. Cheese. Piping hot griddle.
I like the sound of the sizzle of the butter as it hits the pan. It's a reminder of how quickly things change. One second you're whole, the next second you've melted.
I like to put extra cheese on my sandwich so it drips out over the sides. That way, I can scoop it up, twirl it around my fingertip, and suck it into my mouth. I also dunk the toasty bread into the soup, sopping up what's left in the bottom of the bowl. I eat on the couch where the TV is in front of me and the closed curtains are behind me. I'm a shut-in. I'm unaware if it's foggy, sunny, cold, or hot outside unless I'm specifically paying attention. Nothing changes inside my living room. I have a television lineup, online school, the same lunch, and scheduled ten a.m. and two p.m. check-in phone calls from my mom every weekday.
My psychologist visits twice a week.
Her name is Brenda.
She has a hard edge and soft eyes.
She has tattoos that snake up and down her arms until they get lost underneath the sleeves or the collar of whatever shirt she's wearing.
She comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays after lunch.
At one p.m.
She'll be here tomorrow.
We'll sit on the couch and she'll make me turn off the TV.
I hate that.
Sometimes Brenda forces me to say things that make me cry. But usually, talking to her calms me down. She also checks up on my medicine to be sure I have enough emergency pills. I need them sometimes. On bad days. Brenda can't prescribe them for me because she's not that kind of doctor. She's a psychologist. My regular doctor gave me the prescription after he talked to Brenda.
Today feels different because Evan is next door.
I can hear the bang bang of him hammering nails into the wall. I can hear the thump thump of him bounding up the stairs. I can hear the slap slap of his screen door as he goes in and out, back and forth, up and down the stairs.
Evan is next door. He smells like the ocean.
This runs through my head for the rest of the day. It's what I hear as I sop up soup and sift through soap operas.
I assume he'll bring my keys back when he's done hauling things inside. But when hours pass and he doesn't return, I wonder if maybe he did sell my car. Or at least moved it someplace far away. That would almost be a relief.
But, eventually, there is a knock at my door.
"Who is it?" I ask, as if anyone else ever comes by unannounced.
"Me again. I have your keys."
I flick on the porch light because the evening shadows have set in and I want to be able to see him better. He's a bit sweatier for wear, but his hair is still fluffy and curly and falling into his face in a way that makes me avoid eye contact. He dangles my Pacific Palms High School key chain out in front of him.
"Sorry it took so long, but I put her back where she belongs," he says. "That Bel Air is a classic. How'd you end up with such a sweet ride?"
"It was my grandpa's."
I know nothing about cars. I only know things about this particular matador-red Bel Air because my grandpa told them to me one million times so I could commit the words to memory.
"What year is it?"
"Your grandpa must've been one cool dude."
"He was." I smile and shut the door.
Evan knocks again. He knocks loud and long. I open the door because I can't not notice him. There's something pulling me closer to the threshold, and I can feel it. There's a tingle in my big toe. I look down and see I've practically got one foot out the door. I yank it back inside, stunned that I even tried.
We stand. We stare.
"Why'd you shut the door like that?" he asks.
Thankfully, my little brother comes soaring through the courtyard right then. His arms are spread out wide like an airplane. His mouth makes the sputtering noises of the engine, and his lips spritz spit into the sky. My mom comes in behind him in dirty hospital scrubs. Her hair is knotted, sloppy, on the top of her head, and my brother's superhero backpack strains against one of her shoulders. She's not a nurse. She does the gross stuff. From Monday through Friday, she mops up blood and puke from hospital corridors. And some nights, like tonight, she comes home balancing a pizza box from Penzoni's on her hip as she struggles to open our mailbox to fish out the pile of bills inside.
My brother takes the stairs to our front door two at a time. He stops short at Evan's feet. His arms fall flat at his sides and some spittle stalls, then sucks back between his lips — zzzzzip — as he eyes Evan with kindergarten suspicion.
"Who are you?"
Evan laughs. "Uh, Evan Kokua."
Evan tosses out some sort of secret handshake, bumping his fist against Ben's in a way that sends my little brother into spasms of laughter.
"Are you a superhero?" Ben asks.
Evan shoots my brother a grin that lights up the otherwise dingy wraparound balcony outside our front door, then leans down to look him in the eye. "If I am, I'll never tell."
Ben pushes past me and through the front door. I rock backward then forward, but manage to stay inside.
And then my mom shuffles up the stairs, hands the pizza box over to me, and looks at Evan. "Half cheese, half pepperoni. I know it's not very original, but you're welcome to join us, Superman."
She brushes past him to get inside.
Evan shifts forward, ready to make the crossing into our tiny apartment, but he stops midstride over the threshold when he looks at me. My eyes must be bugging out of my face, because he falls back into place on the other side of the door, feet firmly planted on our welcome mat.
"Nah, I better not. I've gotta nail a bookshelf to the wall. Earthquakes."
He shrugs. We all shrug.
California earthquakes. We're all waiting for them. We're all waiting for things to happen that might never come — things that, if they do come, might not be as bad as the things that have already occurred.
"I'm Carol," my mom says, shoving her hand past me to grip Evan's. They shake. He smiles.
"It's nice to meet you, Carol. I'm Evan. My mom and I just moved here from Hawaii. You'll meet her, I'm sure."
My mom throws her arms out on each side of her, accidentally thwacking the hanging planter with the dying fern in it hard enough to send it swaying under the porch light. "Welcome to Paradise Manor, Evan. Ain't it grand?"
"Yeah," I say. "I bet you didn't realize paradise has a view of the Dumpster and no AC."
Evan lets out a genuine laugh that shakes something loose deep inside of me. I like genuine laughter in the same way I like the warm sun on my face, but I haven't heard or felt either of those things in a long time.
"Well, good night, then," my mom says as she slips all the way inside. "You'll have to swing by for pizza some other time. Right, Morgan?" It's not a question. It's an expectation. It's a request to hurry up and have a life again.
"Um, right," I say, rolling the knotted string of my daytime pajama pants between my fingertips. I stand at the door staring at Evan. "Sorry. My mom's kind of embarrassing."
"Not really. She just tells it like it is. It's not like we don't know where we are. It's not like we don't know we're living the lyrics to a bad country song." He fakes strumming a guitar.
Something about Evan makes me want to be brave, so I fasten a fake guitar strap across my own shoulder and strum the strings at my waist.
"She lives in a rundowwwwwn building on the outskirts of towwwwwwn," I croon in an over-the-top country twang.
"Not bad," he says as he backs away from the door, nodding. "Not bad at all. I'm gonna have to write some music to go along with that. Right after I learn to play the guitar."
The idea of us making music together is so ludicrous that it makes me laugh.
Evan grins at me. "You have a good laugh. Like when you hand one out, you mean it. My cousin was like that."
The compliment throws me off-kilter, and I play it back in my head to be sure I heard him right. "Well, your cousin must've been one cool dude."
He smiles halfheartedly. "Yeah. I think you would've liked him." He shrugs his shoulders. "Well, I hope you feel better. My mom swears by soup. Do you have any?"
That makes me laugh again.
"That was just really funny in a way you don't even know."
"Oh, well, then I'm glad I could make you laugh. Again."
Excerpted from Underwater by Marisa Reichardt. Copyright © 2016 Marisa Reichardt. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a really good book about anxiety and recovery. I read this for a class project and I don't want to give away the secret of the book but it is a really important topic to read about. I think teens and their parents should read this book.
Such an amazing story, such amazing writing! I loved this book - and everyone I've recommended it to has loved it too!
This story easily could have become maudlin or trite in less skillful hands, but in Reichardt’s sensitive telling, it is a deeply compelling tale of a teenage girl finding her way back from tragedy. Morgan hasn’t left her apartment for months – she can’t shake the terror of the shooting at her high school, where she had an encounter with the shooter himself that she can’t admit to anyone. Anxiety, PTSD, and more than a little survivor’s guilt have kept her trapped in her apartment, pushing away her friends. Then Evan moves in next door, sparking her interest and her desire to venture out again, and she begins to take baby steps – to the welcome mat, to the top of the stairs, to the post office on the corner. The reader feels the difficulty of every step along with Morgan, the fear of opening herself up to other people even as she grows to understand that it’s the only way she can heal. With the help of her therapist, Morgan is finally able to move outside of focusing on her own pain and sympathize with that of others – her friends, the alcoholic father who abandoned her, and even the shooter himself. This book handles the shooter with remarkable humanity, never excusing his horrible actions but going far beyond the paint-by-numbers villain treatment that so many books about violence offer as Morgan tries to make sense of his actions. Morgan is a sensitive, brave, caring character trapped in a horrible circumstance, and her story demonstrates all the resilience of the human spirit.
I LOVED this book so much. It's beautifully written, powerful, and important. And there's a hot guy in it too. ;) Get it now!!
Underwater, by Marisa Reichardt is drama/ emotion fiction book. The story is about a girl who gets through a difficult time in her life. The author Marisa Reichardt was a swimmer in her college years. Just like Morgan Grant the protagonist in the story. Also, for college Marisa Reichardt went to school at the University of Southern California. And the setting of the story takes place in C California. The story is told through the eyes of Morgan who lives in Pacific Palms, California in about the year 2010. She is a teen who is currently doing online school. She will not go outside her apartment and has not in the last 5 months. She also is very particular in where she sits, because she likes to see everything to the left of her. But one day she meets Evan who has tan skin, brown hair, and smells like the ocean. As the story goes on her and Evan become close and get to know each other better. Morgan has a psychologist named Brenda. Brenda is a catalyst character. Because she helps Morgan talk about things that keeps the story going. Throughout the story there are many questions that generate. But Morgan will finally tell what happened on October 15th. The author could have done better at describing the main character; Morgan. Because I could not visually see her while I read. Plus I didn’t know what she really looked like. She did very well with the point of view. We knew what Morgan was thinking, feeling, all the emotions she had. Like the three things that she tells herself when she has a panic attack, “1. Breathe. 2. You are okay. 3. You are not dying” (46). The theme for this story is you can get anything that life throws at you, but it may just take time. Morgan had a tragedy that had happened on October 15th. But after 5 months she found herself again and conquered what held her back. “I think you’re a girl who went through a horrible thing… But I also think you’re smart and capable. I think you’re working hard to get better. I think you want to get better. I think you will get better… I believe in you”, even Brenda believes Morgan conquer anything life throws at her. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Because it would have been nice to have been able to visualize Morgan better using the authors description. I would recommend this to young teens. But young teens who like a bit of romance.
What a beautifully written first novel. My teen daughter and I both read the book, and loved it. When I was growing up as a nervous kid, there weren't age appropriate books available that talked about anxiety, not to mention books dealing with it from such an empathetic and heartfelt space. I am so grateful to have this book out in the world, both as a lovely story and as a place of healing and comfort for kids and adults that struggle with similar issues. For those thinking about their next read, I highly recommend.
So many books focus on moments of tragedy, but my favorite thing about Underwater was that it focused on the aftermath of one. This book was a hopeful as it was tragic, with characters that were so easy to connect to and love. Reichardt does a wonderful job showing Morgan's fight and strength as she struggles to recover from the aftermath of her school's shooting.
This was a gentle, exquisitely written book involving an act of incomprehensible violence. From the hauntingly beautiful cover, to the voice of Morgan Grant, to the way the tragedy and the family issues are handled--everything about this book seemed pitch perfect to me. Reichardt has tackled one of the most unthinkable human tragedies in a quiet, restrained way--and therein lies its power. I remember being at the museum as a child and they had a display involving a strange aquatic dinosaur. You stood in the dark watching the simulated water move in ripples while a black, mysterious shape passed overhead. This book reminds me of that experience. We know there is an unnamed tragedy at the heart of this story (and, it turns out, more than one), but ultimately this is a hopeful novel about finding strength and allowing people into our lives. We are rooting for Morgan the whole way. Her relationship with her family and her love interest, surfer boy Evan Kokua, are compelling and believable. I only hope that Reichardt's next book is coming soon!
Wow! This book is incredible. Thankfully, I’ve had the good fortune to avoid a shooting so far, but I’ve seen enough global attacks in my lifetime to recognise that the issues protagonist Morgan are going through are a new reality. Author Reichardt makes sure we know they aren’t trivial either as she draws us closer to Morgan with each step of her personal journey to find hope from within. Underwater, while aimed at a younger audience, still resonates with an older generation because the issues Morgan faces are real life challenges, not just teenage angst. In a few years time, I will be giving this novel to my own children, with the hope it will safely introduce some of the issues they will undoubtedly be wrestling with in today’s world. I just hope they, like Morgan, will find a way to overcome it all and forge their own paths ahead.
I highly recommend Underwater by Marisa Reichardt. It is an engaging read with a well-crafted story. My teenaged daughter was so invested in the characters that she nearly completed reading it in one sitting. Once she finished the novel, it became a catalyst for a number of meaningful discussions on our rides to and from school. I have not stopped recommending it to friends and colleagues, and a few who have read it have commented with great enthusiasm on the quality of the writing and the thoughtfulness of the story. Do not pass up the opportunity to read this wonderful book.
READ THIS BOOK! Wow! This book is poetry and laughter and stunning, lyrical truths. I didn't want to leave Morgan's world when I finished this book. I felt so attached to her that I didn't want to let her go. Marisa Reichardt has written a powerful and moving story that stirs in my thoughts even now, weeks after I finished it. You won't be able to put this book down, so carve out several days of your life to dedicate to UNDERWATER, you won't regret it!
Oh, this book! Seldom do I find a book written like this: so clean and uncluttered I see past the words immediately and experience only what the writer intended me to experience. And though the novel tackles a subject we've (unfortunately) heard a lot about lately -- a school shooting -- it is fresh and at times beautiful in its respectful approach to this subject. Main characters Morgan and Evan will burrow their way into your heart -- they've claimed a permanent spot in mine.
Not even a question if you should purchase this book or not...Put it in your BAG NOW! You will not regret it. Underwater captured me right away. I enjoyed following a very brave teenage girl tackle her fears and successfully make it back to her "home" as she once knew it. Through her journey I was reminded how compassion and forgiveness can go a long way. Learning how to forgive is not an easy task, but an important one. It is hard to believe this is Reichardt's first novel. She has quite a talent and I am looking forward to more SOON please!
A moving and beautiful portrait of healing and forgiveness - a must-read! In this powerful, relevant, and emotionally honest debut, Marisa Reichardt has crafted a brilliant, expertly-woven story about compassion, the triumph of love over hate, and the healing and redemptive power of forgiveness. I was immediately drawn into Morgan's world and stayed right by her side on this heart-wrenching and bittersweet journey through the aftermath of an unspeakable tragedy. This is truly one of those must-read books that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.
Wow. This book just blew me away. From the first page, I was completely gripped my Morgan's story and her perspective. She's been traumatized by terrible, violent events that have made her afraid to leave her apartment. But right away, we also start to get glimpses of the happy, relatively carefree person that she was before. As a reader, I was longing for Morgan to find her former self and her former joy in life, even as I felt so completely persuaded of her terror that I absolutely sympathized with her inability to go outside. It's not easy to make that kind of emotion so persuasive that the reader feels immersed in it, but for me, UNDERWATER accomplished that beautifully. It also handles some complicated topics, which could easily look black-and-white at first glance, with amazing empathy and compassion. The writing here is beautiful, emotional, and wise. I recommend reading with some tissues at hand.
I read an arc of this book in return for a fair review. This book was fantastic. I was immediately sucked in to the voice, which is powerful, realistic, funny and poignant. Morgan is a girl who no longer leaves her apartment. Not since the terrible thing that happened at school. Not since the terrible role she accidentally played in the tragedy. So now she spends her days sitting on the couch, eating soup, avoiding everything that happens outside her apartment door. Until Evan moves in next door, and reminds her of the things she's missing out on, the life she's left behind. But it's a life she can have again, if she's willing to let some things go and learn to forgive. Morgan is a great protagonist. I laughed out loud within the first few pages. I cared deeply about her and more than anything I wanted her to get well, to once again experience the good things in life. Every character in this book is great. Even the one character who did something terrible is not without sympathy. Reichardt does a great job of building complex characters with complex motivations, which leads to powerful emotions. I definitely teared up at the end. This book would appeal to fans of contemporary YA, and YA romance.
Marisa Reichardt's Underwater is a truly lovely book. It's the story of Morgan, a teenage girl who becomes agoraphobic due to PTSD in the aftermath a school shooting, and her journey toward healing. Morgan is a wonderful character, believable and sympathetic, and she is surrounded by characters who all feel every bit as real: her mother and adorable little brother, the cute new neighbor, her wonderful therapist, and more. I especially appreciated that the adults are drawn every bit as well as the teenagers; they are all complex, imperfect people with their own problems and their own lives. What I loved most of all, however, is that the book deals with such a horrific topic in a way that is clear, smart, and sensitive. I hate that we live in a world where books about school shootings have to exist, but since we do, I'm grateful we have one like this: a story in which kindness, compassion, and empathy are shown to be so powerful, and strength, forgiveness, and healing in the aftermath are allowed to take so many different forms.
This book was a beautiful exploration of a girl's life after tragedy changes it. It's ultimately a book about love and relationships. The love between a mother and a daughter. The love between a big sister and a little brother. And the kind of love that shakes you at your roots and helps you grow in ways you never thought you could. I cheered for the main character Morgan through the entire book. (she's 100 percent awesome) Marisa Reichardt's writing is gorgeous. I also love the sense of place I felt in this story. It legitimately made me want to go swim and surf. (and also really want a grilled cheese sandwich) A nuanced read of a girl's journey back. Loved it. I can't wait to see what the author writes next.
Underwater is a super sweet (and surprisingly uplifting) read. Reichardt's debut novel covers tough mental health issues such as PTSD and Depression in a way that makes you really understand the severity of these conditions. Despite how dark these aspects are, Underwater made me feel happy and hopeful throughout most of the book. I truly love all of the characters, and they feel amazingly real to me. The only downside I found in this novel was how quickly the romance happened. I'm in full support of the couple, but I just really wanted to witness them getting to know each other more before hitting official "item" status. Most importantly though, the writing is beautiful, engaging, and relatable. I especially loved the dialogue for how it seamlessly brought the characters and the story to life. Full review: http://www.bookrambles.com/2016/01/underwater-blog-tour-review-dreamcast.html
I cannot say enough about the power of this novel. The MC deals with anxiety and PTSD and this trauma-induced illness forces her to shut herself inside a small California apartment. But there is nothing gloomy about this novel. Morgan, our heroic MC, has so much depth and competence throughout her story and remains connected to the deepest love for her little brother and mother. The little brother, incidentally, jumps off the page with his boyish charm and innocence, which is contextualized within his own struggle to accept their family’s shifted reality. The microcosm in this apartment is filled with enough hope and support to keep the reader cheering for the main character’s recovery. Step by step. The ease of this author’s language lulls you into Morgan’s world, her story, her struggle. The writing is never heavy-handed. And the anxiety and mental illness born of a traumatic event? It is handled with such authentic expertise that I know readers will easily be able to identify with Morgan. With all her strengths and weaknesses. They will see themselves reflected in her insights, fears, needs. She is real. She is flawed. She is complex and gorgeous in her complexity. And she embodies strength in every literal step she takes toward defining how she can live in the outside world. There is also a love interest, and Evan couldn’t be more amazing. He’s as easy as a California beach day, accepts Morgan for who she is and meets her there without ever forcing her to move outside her comfort zone. Plus, he’s hilarious and swoony and smart—and also quiet when he needs to be. What I found most compelling about the love interest was that he was never the catalyst for Morgan’s recovery, a solution a less competent writer could have easily woven into the storyline. Instead, Evan’s acceptance and patience allows Morgan the physical and mental space she needs to recover. Is she lured to the California beach air? It’s sand? His abs? The water she craves? Yes. And this tension lives throughout the story. But Morgan must decide if this journey beyond her anxiety is one that she wants to take for herself. Not for a boy. Not forced for another. This is an honest read about a teen girl struggling with the crippling effects of anxiety and I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED these pages. It’s hard to imagine a YA fan that wouldn’t.