Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Sunday, September 4, 2016

Plot Summary:
Last year, on October 15th, Morgan's life changed forever. Rather than attending class and hanging out with friends, Morgan doesn't leave her apartment...ever. When Morgan has a bad day, she tries to follow the three-steps, but, sometimes, she needs an emergency pill. Although Morgan's family understands why she is feeling the way she does, Morgan has no idea if, and when, she will get better. What was supposed to be a day of online classes, television, and a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, Morgan looks at the window and she sees Evan. Not only is Evan gorgeous, he is her new neighbor. It's been a long time since Morgan has ever felt this way so when he knocked on her door, nothing was ever going to be the same because he reminds her of everything she misses dearly. The only way Morgan is ever going to get her life is to have the courage to step out the front door and finally face the past that has haunted and crippled her. What happened last year? What will happen if Morgan shuts the door on Evan? In this amazing debut, Marisa Reichardt brilliantly describes the fragility of the human psyche and how courage, and love, can help us find the strength to move on.

Critical Evaluation:
As stated, previously, this is a wonderful book that gives readers insight on trauma-induced anxiety. Without giving the book away, Morgan is suffering from a type of mental illness that cripples hundreds and thousands of people and it is NOTHING to be ashamed of. What I appreciate the most about this book is how the author depicts the process of overcoming mental illness through her therapy sessions with Brenda, her mother and brother, and the way that she grapples with her father's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Like anxiety, PTSD is a horrendous disease that plagues veterans is a result of seeing, hearing, and dealing with so much stress that the brain literally malfunctions and the person is just unable to deal with every day life. Although Morgan and her father experienced horrible things, their illnesses are treatable with time and medical treatment. As a person who lives with mental illness, I appreciate the author's narrative as it describes the process of recovering from a mental illness. It's incredibly important for reader's to understand that recovering from mental illness can't be fixed with a pill or just a few therapy sessions. For Morgan, Evan was the missing piece she needed in order to step outside her front door, get back into her car, and go back into the water she loved so much. This is a great book for teens who are not only experiencing mental illness, but for teens who may know someone they love or care about.

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website:
Marisa Reichardt is a SoCal native who has paid the bills by shucking oysters, waiting tables, peddling swimwear, tutoring, and writing. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her family and can usually be found huddled over her laptop in coffeehouses or swimming in the ocean. She has a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and dual undergraduate degrees in literature and creative writing from UC San Diego. Her debut novel, Underwater, was an Indies Introduce New Voices pick for winter/spring 2016 and an Indie Next Top 10 pick for winter 2016. 
Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Issues, 

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Underwater:
  • This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith 

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

"Debut author Reichardt doesn’t oversimplify: Morgan isn’t saved by love; rather, new neighbor Evan reminds her of life and what it’s like to have a friend. As Evan, who has his own connection to the shooting, tells her, what he likes about Morgan is that she’s real, and that’s exactly what readers will appreciate about this book." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Debut author Reichardt smartly reveals the source of Morgan's agoraphobia--a school shooting--very gradually, which, along with the sweet romance with Evan, urges the plot forward. Morgan's... story of growth and redemption will be rewarding for readers who love character-driven novels." ―Booklist

"Readers will enjoy the emotional balance Reichardt gives to the high stakes conflicts in a teen’s life." ―School Library Journal

"A moving, reflective exploration of grief, trauma, and how individuals find their paths toward resilience." ―Kirkus Reviews

"While this is a tender and appealing romance, it would also make a thoughtful complement to the many books about school shootings to illuminate the effects that last beyond the horrible day."―BCCB 

"Reichardt's remarkable debut novel, told in Morgan's voice, is a sensitive and inspirational exploration of the aftermath of tragedy and of a young woman's grief and guilt. Young adults will enjoy sharing Morgan's passage from hurt to healing." ―VOYA

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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