Saturday, January 16, 2016

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Morgan didn't mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive – first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself.

But Morgan can't move on. She can't even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she's underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can't hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I was immediately drawn into Underwater, and read 75% of it in one sitting (sleep overcame me as it was the middle of the night). For me, Morgan was a very relatable character from the start, who was atrophying in her apartment due to agoraphobia.

I started the novel without a clue on what caused the 17 year old to live in fear and anxiety. But for the sake of reviewing, I must give a tiny spoiler away. This is my 4th school shooting novel in less than 6 months that I've read. I don't go out of my way to find them, but it feels as if it's becoming a genre unto its own.

Morgan, a survivor of a school shooting, can't bear to leave her apartment, even going as far as to take the rest of her junior year courses online. She's pushed her friends away, neglecting her swimming, but is seeing a therapist at her home.

I felt Morgan was written with authenticity and compassion for agoraphobia & PTSD – with realism. The parallels between her absentee father who had tour after tour in the military, who is also suffering yet finding succor in the bottle.

Morgan meets the new next door neighbor, and it sparks her to make a change. This isn't insta-anything, except perhaps friendship. But like any 17 year old girl, she does find Evan cute, and it reminds her of who she used to be prior to October.

Underwater is a slow progression of Morgan's struggle to overcome agoraphobia, meaning the book's pacing does flow like molasses for the purpose of maintaining realism. The flow of information detailing the shooting, I felt, should have been faster to keep the reader engaged. It was released piecemeal, and I could sense there was always more coming. The knowledge itself felt beyond realistic, and I'd be a liar if I didn't say I shed more than a tear or two.

Underwater definitely took me through the gamut of emotions. Sweet and humorous between Morgan and her baby brother. Endearing between Morgan and her mother. Funny yet frustrating between Morgan and the neighbor, Evan. The novel delivered the feels.

The romance: It was necessary, as it was fuel for a 17 year old to move on. But after the slow pacing throughout the book, when it does happen late, it still seems too soon. I was frustrated and annoyed with Morgan constantly freezing Evan out. I understood why, but it became redundant after a few times for the reader. So when they do come together, it's within 10 minutes without truly talking about the whys or hows. After a couple hundred pages, it felt like BOOM! "Am I your boyfriend?" after Morgan finally decided to talk to Evan again, at her brother's machinations. 10 minutes. That's my too soon comment. It felt forced, like the author pulled the trigger on it to appease her YA readers (no pun intended). In this, friendship should have been in order first and foremost because I couldn't buy the romance angle. Everything else was flawlessly written.

Underwater is the emotional aftermath and healing in the wake of a tragic school shooting, and I highly recommend this title to Young Adults and those who are young at heart.

Young Adult age-range: 14+

Marisa Reichardt is a SoCal native and high school writing instructor. She has a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and dual undergraduate degrees in literature and creative writing from UC San Diego. She spent her college years shucking oysters, waiting tables, and peddling swimwear. She has spent her post-grad years writing, tutoring, and teaching. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her family, and can usually be found huddled over her laptop in coffeehouses or swimming in the ocean.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Underwater by Marisa Reichardt to read and review.

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