Author: Marisa Reichardt
Released: January 12th 2016
Length: 288 pages
Source: Publisher for review
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, Marisa Reichardt’s wonderful debut, is a book about the debilitating depths of fear and the stunning power of courageous hope. It begs to be read in one sitting and commands to be felt deeply. Underwater is a story about Morgan, a 16-year-old girl suffering from agoraphobia after a traumatic event. Morgan hasn’t left the house in months – she attends school online, has her own little rituals while her family is away and she meets her pro bono therapist in her own living room. Even the thought of going outside makes her panic until the right motivation comes along.
When I talk about motivation, I want it to be clear that Evan, the boy that moves in next door, isn’t some easy fix for her illness. I was afraid of that approach when I first read the description, but Reichardt was very careful not to make it seem superficial and easy. She gave Morgan time to heal on her own. Morgan was pushed by her desire to spend time with Evan, but there were so many steps she needed to take first and all of them had very little to do with him.
Morgan’s issues aren’t the only thing she faces in this book. Her father struggles with mental illness and alcoholism after many tours in Afghanistan. Morgan doesn’t understand how her father could abandon his family. She can’t forgive him for time lost and for choosing to be homeless rather than live with them. This was, perhaps, the most genuine, honest part of the book. I love that Morgan had to go through her own condition and disappointments in order to better understand her dad. Their (non)relationship was done exceptionally well and I admire Marisa Reichardt for approaching the subject so tactfully. Once again, no easy fixes were offered because such things simply don’t exist in life, but one could take away a strong message of hope even with the open ending and issues that were left unresolved.
I love Reichardt’s style mostly because it’s understated. She knows how to convey genuine emotions without resorting to cheap tear-jerkers. The things she introduced in Underwater are some of the biggest open wounds of modern society and yet they were done sensitively and thoughtfully. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.