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Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.
Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves
ARC received for review purposes in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Girl Out of Water was one of those books that I went into without knowing much about it, but the minute I opened it, I was inexplicably drawn to every part of the story. It’s one of those YA books that may seem light and summery (not a bad thing), but also possesses a depth to it that made it memorable. I’m already crowning Girl Out of Water as one of the top debut novels of 2017.
I hate author comparisons, but as I was reading Silverman’s novel, I kept thinking about how much this book would appeal to Morgan Matson, Jenn Bennett and Sarah Dessen fans. And I really think it would. Laura Silverman pays just as much attention to her characters and their character development as these author wonderful authors do. I seriously loved all the characters here. Anise and I didn’t have a lot in common in terms of interests, but I bonded with her because of how multi-layered her character was. Her deep love for surfing, her kind soul and her shades of vulnerability truly made her an exceptional protagonist. When her dad decides to uproot her to the middle of nowhere, Nebraska, for her last summer break to take care of her recovering aunt, she is undeniably frustrated. This is a girl with a bond with the ocean as deep as Moana’s, and a girl who lives to be around her friends, so she is completely thrown off balance at this turn of events. We see Anise’s frustrations with the situation come out quite a bit through her actions and thoughts in the book, but I also love how she never let her family feel like they were a burden to her. She takes care of her cousins, and she grows up a lot throughout Girl Out of Water – she especially learns to deal with her mom leaving her dad and her.
Girl Out of Water also has a strong focus on the family dynamics. Firstly, there was Anise’s relationship with her father. It’s so beautifully written, and I fell head over heels in love with this father-daughter duo. They don’t always see eye-to-eye, but there was an openness to their relationship and it was one that was built on trust. They were each other’s moral support, and damn if that didn’t make me want to tear up a time or two. Then, there was Anise’s relationship with her cousins. Her mischievous twin cousins, were specially a highlight of the story. They were raucous little trouble-makers, but they pushed Anise to try new things. The pureness of their love for Anise was just too cute for words. Anise has a different relationship with her other cousin, Emery, mostly because Emery is dealing with teenage angst, but you see Anise stand as a role-model to her and helping her become better.
Friendship was another element explored in Girl Out of Water. I very much related to the conversations about long-distance friendships and how hard they can be to maintain. I saw a lot of my own mistakes in Anise’s ones, so it hit very close to home, because I’ve lost many friendships because of my inability to maintain them long-distance. Unlike me though, Anise realized her faults, and by the end makes amends in repairing her relationships. There was also a pretty fantastic romance in Girl Out of Water. Though Anise had a potential beau back in California, I wasn’t completely sold on him. The minute Lincoln entered the scene though, I was entirely too obsessed with this charming dimpled one-armed boy. He was a smooth-talking, teasing and kind-hearted boy with a bright personality, who truly pushed Anise to be a better version of herself. Their relationship was very much slow-burn, but with plenty of swoony kisses along the way. I need an age-appropriate Lincoln for myself.
I know that there are plenty of YA contemporary novels about family, love and growing up out there, but please, please, please give Girl Out of Water a chance. This book was just special in many ways, and it’s only Laura Silverman’s debut. Read it and join me in my fangirling over this story!