Published by Pan Macmillan on April 7th 2016
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“Forgiving you will allow me to forgive myself.”
Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then herself.
But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.
When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.
Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.
Wow, seriously, just wow. When I opened Underwater, I didn’t know what to expect. Would I love it? Would I hate it? Would I be indifferent? Seriously, just wow.
This book was just what I needed! I’m sitting here with a distinct feeling of lightness in my heart because it has been so long since I read a book that reminded me of how much I love reading! Recently I’ve been feeling like reading is an obligation, the weight of review books has been felt very much so on these shoulders and the idea of picking a random book and losing myself in it felt like a distant memory.
Underwater helped me recall what it was like to –
1. Resent putting a book down to do ridiculous things like work and eat
2. Have butterflies flutter in my stomach because of gorgeously emotive writing.
3. Fall in love with fictional characters again and just root for them so dang hard.
Underwater is the debut novel of Marisa Reichardt and let me just say this: Get writing girlfriend because you are on my auto-buy list for sure! All the books, Marisa! ALL THE BOOKS! 😉
In Underwater, we meet Morgan, a junior in high school who is a self-imposed shut-in after witnessing a horrific school shooting. Suffering from PTSD, Morgan shuts herself away from the world, attending school online and her only human contact is with her therapist, mom and cuter than cute little brother Ben.
When her new neighbour knocks on the door and Morgan forces herself to open it, she begins to slowly remember what it’s like to be out in the world again when it’s not always so dark and twisty. Can Morgan find the courage and strength to reconcile with the past and move towards a more hopeful future?
We hear so much about school shootings on the news, we see the students gathering in groups, sobbing, on phones to loved ones. We hear sound bites from eye-witnesses, the sensationalised accounts from reporters, the soulless looking photos of the perpetrators, carefully selected by the media to direct the story their way. We never hear about the aftermath. The immediate aftermath yes but not how it is to be a survivor months later, when everyone else has moved on to the next tragedy and you’re left there, struggling to cope. Underwater lends us an insight into what that’s like with Morgan’s story.
The trauma of that day and its aftermath has a long reaching effect on Morgan, her family and friends. As Morgan struggles to reconcile her feelings on the events of that fateful day in October, we also get to see how it affects her mom, brother and wider circle. The feeling of helplessness is certainly shared equally in this family and it was powerful to witness the courage and strength these characters drew from each other to make it through just one more day.
The characters are truly the most blessed part of this novel and I absolutely adored each and every one. Reichardt managed to imbue even the most insignificant of secondary characters with realism and charm that meant you would remember them long after the last page was regretfully turned. I connected immediately with Morgan, her personality was irresistible and her story one I was eager to see unfold from the beginning. Her relationship with her mom and brother was simply gorgeous to witness, the depth of love these three have for each other radiates from the page and every scene was filled with emotion.
It would have been so easy for the romance in this book to have been the typical “Damaged girl meets cute guy, who heals her with a smile and hot kisses” fluff piece but Reichardt takes care to ensure the romance is secondary to the work Morgan does herself to heal. As Morgan comes to terms with the darkness and pain of her past, her relationship with Evan brings levity to the heavy emotion, reminding Morgan of the girl she used to be, the girl she still is underneath the sorrow. I adored Evan, I loved his own back-story and how he persevered with Morgan, helping to make her feel safe whilst still challenging her and encouraging her.
The writing was understated, allowing the emotion to shine through as these wonderful characters brought me to tears, made me smile, filled me with hope and gifted me with pure joy.
A story of hope in the darkest of circumstances, of the strength and tenacity of the human spirit to keep trying and the courage to heal, forgive and redeem – Underwater is simply stunning.