Underwater is one powerful novel. It takes you inside the head of the main character, Morgan, who is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after being part of a horrifying event that took place at her high school. Since that day, she hasn’t been the same – jumping at little sounds such as locker doors shutting, being terrified that the event will occur again, and finally, refusing to leave the apartment she shares with her mother and her little brother.
Up until that day, Morgan was your typical teenager – hanging out with friends, driving around in her grandfather’s car that he left to her when he died, being a great swimmer on her school’s swim team, going to parties, kissing boys – and then that one fateful day changed everything for her. Her life became a nightmare, and in order to prevent that nightmare from coming true again, she chooses to stay locked inside her apartment, where she knows she will be safe. Her therapist comes to see her at home twice a week, where she encourages Morgan to write letters, come outside onto the welcome mat just to feel the fresh air, and try to let go. While Morgan is reluctant and refuses to emerge from the one place she feels safe, when a new boy, Evan, moves in next door, she begins to wonder what it would be like to go back to being normal.
When Evan starts spending time with her, she realizes she likes him, but she’s terrified that he’s going to learn about her and decide that she isn’t worth the time – after all, she won’t be able to go surfing with him, go on dates with him, or spend time with him anywhere other than her apartment. So she pushes him away and tries to get herself together first. She takes baby steps – such as walking down the steps to the apartment building and to the mailbox. She wants to work her way up to leaving the house, especially for her little brother’s sake – he is going to be in his school play and wants nothing more than for Morgan to come and see him. So Morgan does her best to try and live her life again, even if it is incredibly difficult for her to try and let go of the past in order to do it.
I loved this book. I read through this one so quickly because I enjoyed it so much and didn’t want to put it down. Morgan’s story was a raw, honest portrayal of what it’s like to be a teenager who is so traumatized by a horrifying event that she couldn’t even leave her apartment, while dealing with a crush on a new boy and the heartbreak of rejection from her estranged father, who is an alcoholic and wants nothing to do with Morgan or her brother.
The one part about this book that I found somewhat frustrating was the fact that Morgan kept pushing Evan away and then wanting him back, only to push him away again, and then get sad when he started spending time with another girl. I thought Morgan was a strong individual who was dealing with a lot of things that no one should have to deal with, but the whole thing with Evan just got old after a while (even Morgan’s mother pointed out that Evan was going to get tired of it eventually).
I think my favorite aspect of Underwater was how family-orientated it was. So many YA books just skip out on the family part of the book, but that isn’t the case here. You get a lot of detail about Morgan’s father throughout the book, and a lot of the story is focused around Morgan, her mother, and her little brother together. It’s different and wonderful to see this. I absolutely loved Morgan’s little brother, Ben. Ben was simply adorable and gave the book so much light. Morgan wanted nothing more than to take care of him and make him happy, and you can tell that he loves and adores her. Morgan’s mother loved both her children, and tried hard to take care of them the best way she could. She definitely was a loving parent, as opposed to being absent or distant. The closeness in this family really gives you a nice, warm feeling.
If you enjoy realistic young adult fiction, you really need to give this one a go. It’s a heartbreaking book about recovering and finding the strength to let go and move on, even if moving on and letting go really doesn’t seem like it will ever be an option. You’ll really be amazed at Morgan’s development throughout the book, and the strength she shows in trying to recover and reclaim her life. It’s inspiring and original, and definitely deserves a spot on your to be read list!
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.