Underwater by Marisa Reichardt — "I believe in you." + Giveaway!

10 January 2016

by Marisa Reichardt
Expected publication on January 12th, 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Edition: eARC (288 pages)

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.

 *I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.

Realistic fiction is something I don't read often, because of the rarity of proper execution by the author. They either get it, or they don't, and just pretentiously assume they do, especially when it's about a tough or controversial topic not everyone is willing to read out of their comfort zone. There's a whole collection of realistic fiction with sensitive subjects out there, in which mostly falls under mental illnesses.

Underwater is a mental illness book, for those unaware. Although the main character, Morgan, has severe anxiety, it doesn't solely focus on her illness alone. Marisa Reichardt's brilliant voice as Morgan captured mental illness to a tee, particularly her anxiety. Confusion hits you at first upon meeting Morgan, and introduced with a backstory that's filled with friendships and ambitions: what happened for her to become the girl she is now, never leaving the house, terrified of the world?

"You shouldn't stop living your life just because you're scared."

Reading [Underwater] in Morgan's perspective was like being in her brain as a spectator, watching in the sidelines as her illness strikes out of the blue. It's completely random, no preparations, and just leaves you confused and baffled especially to those who are lucky to have not experienced anxiety first hand and are unaware of the weight of the attacks. Paranoia has become Morgan's greatest enemy, striking like taunting gun to the head. playing with your head as a matter of life and death. Anxiety is like a game of Russian Roulette—except the gun isn't loaded, but your mind likes to think it is, despite the assurance that it's an empty barrel. 

"What's the point of wasting all your time worrying about something that might never happen?"
"Because that's what people do."
"No, it isn't. I don't. That's what crazy people do."

But don't get me wrong, this whole book isn't about Morgan suffering from anxiety 24/7 with no hopes of recovery. As a matter of fact, her steps to recovery is one of the reasons why I adored this book so much, mainly, the characters. Everyone else mentioned in the book plays a vital role in Morgan's gradual journey to recovery: her new next door neighbor, Evan, who eventually becomes a love interest, but a friend first, her therapist, Brenda, her family, particularly her mom and little brother, Ben. 

One of the characters that struck me the most was Morgan's mom, I couldn't help but get emotional. Most parents in Young Adult books are often molded as the bad guy, or if not, just a nice parent in the background, offering words of wisdom in at least a single page when the youngster has boy problems or whatsoever. But not this mother. Her character was always present for Morgan and incredibly supportive, and redefined parenthood in young adult novels in a different way. 

"I think you want to get better. I think you will get better.[...] When you're ready. I believe in you."

Reading Underwater turned me into an emotional sap, and touched my soul, especially as someone who could relate to Morgan, although not wholly. Marisa's writing is straightforward, blunt, and edgy, and not to mention, incredibly satisfying and remarkably touching . A little bit of romance is present, but not considered as part of the main focal points of the novel. The characters are well shaped, filled with complexities and immense depth, and definitely keeps you engaged with every turn of a page. If you're looking to read books with sensitive topics, or even attempt to step out of your comfort zone, you have to give Underwater a go! (Don't forget to have tissues handy!)

*Quotes are taken from the uncorrected copy of the novel and are subjected to change. 




I'm a SoCal native and high school writing instructor. I currently live in Los Angeles and can usually be found huddled over my laptop in coffeehouses or swimming in the ocean.  

My debut YA contemporary novel, UNDERWATER, will be out 1/12/16 from Macmillan/FSG and 4/7/16 Macmillan Children's UK. 

I love all books and all genres. While I do keep track of all the books I've read here, I generally don't do ratings or reviews.


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