Published on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Pan MacMillan
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In order to move on after a traumatic experience, 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.
I received a copy of this book from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Since a terrible tragedy at school, Morgan’s been unable to leave her house. Her days consist of online school, crappy soap operas, and grilled cheese sandwiches. That is until surfer boy Evan moves in next door, bringing with him the warmth of the sun and the smell of the sea. Connecting with Evan could help Morgan reconnect with the world outside her apartment.
I recently read another ‘issues’ YA book about a girl with a debilitating problem that a boy helps her work through. That was called the Things I Didn’t Say, and it was about a girl with Selective Mutism. In contrast to that, Underwater shows how Morgan is actively trying to overcome her issues and she works hard all through the novel and makes progress all through the novel, not just because a cute boy wants to date her. Similarly to the other novel, Underwater’s cute boy tries to understand her problems but loses patience once or twice because our girl’s incapable of being ‘normal’. However, in this novel, Morgan still has a therapist, and Brenda is a cool a psychologist you can get. She’s young and hip and has tattoos and dreadlocks. So as the plot advances, and Morgan makes progress with her issues, we’re also exposed to why she feels so scared even though other kids went through what she went through that fateful day at school, and why her friendships have drifted apart. It’s not a novel big on action, more of a character study.
It was interesting reading about agoraphobia from Morgan’s point of view. She used to be a strong swimmer and there’s even a pool at her apartment, but since she shut herself in her body has started to change from lean and tan to rounder and pale. Morgan has a realistically-portrayed 5 year old brother, Ben, whom she adores. Her mother doesn’t quite understand her issue and her dad is absent. Morgan likes repetition because it’s predictable. She needs people to sit on the left side of her so she can see them. Her fears run her life, but she wants to overcome them, and that’s admirable.
What I liked about Evan’s portrayal is he never seemed to be to be Morgan’s saviour. It wasn’t because of him that she challenged her fears and stepped outside her front door. Largely it was because of Ben, actually, and Brenda’s calm and patient coaching. It was Morgan who wanted to do it, and not because of Evan. Likewise, Evan wasn’t this wisdomous ball of never-ending patience – quite frankly, he tried to understand Morgan, but didn’t, and lashed out like any normal teenage boy would. On the other hand he did have some moments when he was really sweet, but like Morgan’s mother, I think he never really understood what he problem was.
I would have loved to have seen some more scenes with Morgan’s ex-friendship group. There were four of them together and they seemed like a whole bunch of fun, but Morgan cut herself off after the tragedy. Consequently we don’t get a whole lot of info on the ex-BFFS even though Morgan does run into them on occasion. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just something I think could have enhanced the novel even further.
I found the writing enjoyable and leisurely. Like I said, it’s not really an action novel, and I was OK with that. I was happy to explore Morgan’s feelings on a whole heap of subjects. It felt like a contemporary, if somewhat smart teen going through a really rough time.
Overall I enjoyed Underwater, figuring out what he big secrets were and then cheering Morgan as she faced her challenges and overcame them – not without significant struggle. I’d recommend this book to YA lovers who love a bit of mystery with their contemporary.