Top Fourteen Underappreciated Books I Positively Adore

Top Ten Tuesday is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I count down my top ten choices on a particular theme. This weekly event is hosted by Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is: Top Fourteen Underappreciated Books I Positively Adore.

I’ll be the first to admit that today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt posed a bit of a challenge for me, primarily because the idea of an ‘underrated’ or ‘underappreciated’ book is extremely subjective. After all, it’s not something that’s easy to measure or quantify. That said, all but four of the books on today’s list have fewer than 300 reviews on Goodreads, and are all stories that hold a very special place in my heart. While I rarely see them discussed on social media or featured on other blogs, these are among the first books I will eagerly press into the hands of friends, family members and unwitting strangers when they ask me for a recommendation. There’s nothing that brings me greater joy than helping a reader find the right book for them, and this always feels particularly gratifying when it’s a story that often doesn’t get the attention or recognition it so richly deserves.

As always, these choices are listed in no particular order.

Middle Grade

Published January 27th, 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
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There’s something about asking for Impossible Things. For one little second, they feel Possible.

Take two sisters making it on their own: brainy twelve-year-old GiGi and junior-high-dropout-turned-hairstylist DiDi. Add a million dollars in prize money from a national cooking contest and a move from the trailer parks of South Carolina to the North Shore of Long Island. Mix in a fancy new school, new friends and enemies, a first crush, and a generous sprinkling of family secrets.




Published March 29th, 2016 by Aladdin
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Twelve-year-old AJ is dreading spending the summer with her uber-strict grandmother — that is, until she’s recruited to join Grandma Jo’s heist club — in this hilarious and quirky twist on a summer vacation story.

AJ does not, under any circumstances, want to spend an entire month living with her strict Grandma Jo. Not only does her grandmother tell her how to walk, what to eat, and which rooms she can enter, she fills all of AJ’s free time with boring sewing lessons! Grandma Jo wants nothing more than to transform her adventurous, fun-loving granddaughter into a prim and proper lady…and AJ hates it.

But AJ’s dull summer takes an exciting turn when she discovers that her grandmother’s “bridge group” is actually a club of crooks! And when Grandma Jo offers to teach AJ lock picking instead of embroidery in exchange for help with a few capers, AJ is thrilled to join her grandmother’s madcap band of thieves who claim to steal only for ethical reasons.

But even the most respectable ladies can hide some truly surprising secrets, and AJ must decide for herself what it truly means to be one of the good guys.




Published March 8th, 2016 by HMH Books For Young Readers
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Odette Zyskowski has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the very top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in a cramped Coach with her parents and autistic brother, sharing one stupid cell phone among the four of them. And there’s definitely nothing fair about what they find when they reach Grandma Sissy’s house, hundreds of miles later.

Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair. Is there a way for her to make things right?




Published September 6th, 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books
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Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. He knows more than anyone how to work with what he’s got: a bathrobe for a trench coat, a makeshift office behind the school equipment shed, and not much else — least of all, friends. So when a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself…until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick — and a friend — is such a bad thing after all.




Published January 8th, 2015 by Dial Books
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Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute — she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan — and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?




Published July 10th, 2014 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
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Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City — all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?




Young Adult

Published April 7th, 2015 by Poppy
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Sneak out. Make out. Rock out.

Riley and her best guy friend, Reid, have made a pact: they’ll help each other pursue their respective crushes, make something happen, and document the details in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over a girl’s heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, the guy she’s been obsessed with forever. His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But between a chance meeting with a fellow musician in a record store and a brief tryst with a science-geek-turned-stud–not to mention Ted’s own tentative attentions–cute guys are suddenly popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! As their love lives go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid’s pact may prove to be more than they bargained for.




Published June 2nd, 2015 by Dial Books
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When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.

Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.




Published May 8th, 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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Honor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn’s celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn’s last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn…and ruggedly good-looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn – but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?




Published March 3rd, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
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“Don’t believe anything they say.”

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her – and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn’t a kid anymore, and this time she won’t let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets – and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie’s attacker behind bars – if Alice can find her first. And she isn’t the only one looking




Published April 26th, 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?

While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.

And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk.

Almost.

It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.




Published May 19th, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
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Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in his father’s upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four mile per hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.




Adult

Published July 8th, 2014 by St. Martin’s Press
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Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?




Published July 1st, 2014 by St. Martin’s Press
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Lydia Netzer, the award-winning author of Shine Shine Shine, weaves a mind-bending, heart-shattering love story that asks, “Can true love exist if it’s been planned from birth?”

Like a jewel shimmering in a Midwest skyline, the Toledo Institute of Astronomy is the nation’s premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. Here, dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God. Here, Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity.

George and Irene are on a collision course with love, destiny and fate. They have everything in common: both are ambitious, both passionate about science, both lonely and yearning for connection. The air seems to hum when they’re together. But George and Irene’s attraction was not written in the stars. In fact their mothers, friends since childhood, raised them separately to become each other’s soulmates.

When that long-secret plan triggers unintended consequences, the two astronomers must discover the truth about their destinies, and unravel the mystery of what Toledo holds for them — together or, perhaps, apart.




Now it’s your turn! Which books do you love and feel are underappreciated? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

Cover Reveal: Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Happy Monday, everyone! I can think of no better way to kick off a brand new week than by welcoming my dear friend and regular Pop! Goes The Reader contributor, Lily Anderson, to the blog once again! Today, I have the immense pleasure of hosting the exclusive cover reveal for Lily’s forthcoming sophomore young adult release, Not Now, Not Ever. Coming to a bookstore and library near you November 21st, 2017 from Wednesday Books (a new imprint of St. Martin’s Griffin), Not Now, Not Ever is a story inspired by The Importance Of Being Earnest that follows the life of Elliot, a teenage girl who will use every ounce of her wit, determination and courage to realize her dream of attending the only college in the country with a Science Fiction Literature program – even if it means running away from home in order to compete in an academic decathlon. Being entrusted with an author’s cover reveal is always a humbling and very special experience for me, and it’s a particularly exceptional one when I’m able to help someone whose friendship and voice I admire and appreciate as much as I do Lily’s. Her newest cover is every bit as vibrant, beautiful and fun as she is and I absolutely can’t wait to explore the story held within its pages in November. Please read on to learn more about this exciting 2017 release, including an exclusive cover reveal and a personal note from the author about the novel’s origins and inspiration.

The start of my new book Not Now, Not Ever is The Importance Of Being Earnest. Oscar Wilde’s iconic play is literally the spark of inspiration that puts my main character, Elliot, in motion to run away from home for the summer. Earnest represents everything Elliot doesn’t want – family hijinks, mistaken identities, love that changes your plans. Earnest is farce. Elliot wants surety. She wants to win a scholarship to the college her parents won’t pay for her to attend. She wants a reason not to join the Air Force. She wants to set the future in stone. And life thwarts her at every turn. Life gives her farce.

My first book The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You (in stores now!) is also about super smart kids in Oregon dealing with uncertainty. But where the Messina Academy students of TOTWTMIY struggle with relationships (romantic and platonic), their futures are never in question. They are going to get into college and, not just that, they’re going to get into great colleges. So, in starting to write a book that takes place in the same world (same town, same academic environment), I wanted to focus on a different set of issues.

The characters in Not Now, Not Ever are competing for a full ride scholarship to the prestigious (and fictitious) Rayevich College (which is across town from the also fictional Messina Academy). Some are competing to appease their parents or as the culmination of a lifetime of racking up achievements. Some were tricked and some are engaged in their own trickery. But all of them are looking at this as one route, not the only route. You could go to college. You could join the army. You could live at home and get a job. You can meet your potential or you won’t.

Not Now, Not Ever is about finding out what your potential means to you through family hijinks, mistaken identities, and love that changes your plans. And, oh yeah, Elliot Gabaroche meeting a boy named Brandon Calistero, a boy with floppy hair and strange college friends (named Trixie, Ben, Meg, Harper, Cornell, and Peter…).


About Lily Anderson

Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads


Title Not Now, Not Ever
Author Lily Anderson
Pages N/A
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
To Be Published November 21st, 2017 by Wednesday Books (New imprint of St. Martin’s Griffin)
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A teenage girl, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest, runs away under an assumed name to compete in an off-brand academic decathlon for a chance to win a full scholarship to the only college in the country with a Science Fiction Literature program.

Short & Sweet Reviews: Conviction

Short and Sweet Reviews is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I share short, one or two paragraph reviews of books I’ve recently read.

Title Conviction
Author Kelly Loy Gilbert
Published May 19th, 2015 by Disney Hyperion
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Religion, Baseball
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Received an ARC from the publisher for review (Thanks, Hachette Book Group Canada), Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in his father’s upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four mile per hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

Conviction is a haunting examination of a family in crisis after a single, gruesome event catapults three people into the spotlight and forces them to confront the secrets that have long brought them together and torn them apart. Between his mother’s abandonment, his father’s volatile temper and his older brother estrangement, sixteen-year-old Braden Raynor’s life has always been one of turmoil, dysfunction and, far too often, abuse. Nothing could prepare Braden for life’s most unexpected curveball, however, when his father, a respected evangelical radio host and a pillar of their small community, is accused of murdering a Latino police officer from a neighbouring county, a man who also happens to be the uncle of one of Braden’s biggest baseball rivals. As the sole witness to the events of that fateful, now infamous evening, Braden must grapple with mounting pressure at home, at school and on the baseball field as he prepares to testify at his father’s trial, testimony on which the outcome of the trial, and his father’s very life, will ultimately rest. In what will prove a challenging and complex choice between love, loyalty, duty and moral responsibility, Braden will be forced to question his role as a son, a brother, a Christian and a ball player, in addition to being forced to question the courage of his convictions. Using Braden as her subject, Gilbert’s conclusions about the insidious consequences and legacy of mental, emotional and physical abuse are harrowing and heartbreaking but never without hope as this phenomenally talented debut author also explores the possibility and power of second chances and alternate support systems in combating this destructive influence. Conviction reads, in part, like a taut psychological thriller as Gilbert gradually reveals sparse and poignant details from Braden’s past over the course of the narrative, leaving the precise events of the night in question, Braden’s father’s guilt, and the nature and outcome of Braden’s testimony in doubt until the novel’s breathless conclusion. Prospective readers should be aware that Conviction does contain elements of homophobia. While this makes sense within the context of the story given Braden’s religious beliefs and the rigidity of his upbringing, there were moments when this felt like an unnecessary addition to an already challenging and somber story and which might prove understandably upsetting for some readers. As a result, I couldn’t help but wish this element had been more overtly challenged within the text, or entirely omitted altogether. Despite this, however, Conviction is almost certainly a novel that is not to be missed. A meticulous, heart-wrenching meditation on family, faith, forgiveness, loyalty, and morality, Kelly Loy Gilbert’s unforgettable 2015 debut is a woefully under-appreciated powerhouse whose maturity and complexity reminds readers of the very best young adult fiction has to offer.

The Writing’s On The Wall: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

The Writing’s On The Wall is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I create desktop wallpapers inspired by some of my favourite novels, authors, and literary quotes.

Title Underwater
Author Marisa Reichardt
Pages 288 Pages
Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Illness, Agoraphobia, PTSD, Romance
Published January 12th, 2016 by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
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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.

1280×800 » 1440×900 » 1680×1050 » 1920×1200 » 2560×1400 » iPhone 5 » iPhone 6 » iPad

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to La Goupil Paris, Connary Fagen Type Design and Rodrigo M Photographs whose clipart and/or fonts I purchased, edited and used in the creation of this wallpaper!

Now it’s your turn! What would you like to see made into a desktop wallpaper next? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt


Title Underwater
Author Marisa Reichardt
Published January 12th, 2016 by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Illness, Anxiety, Agoraphobia, PTSD, Romance
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Received an ARC from the publisher for review (Thanks, Raincoast Books!), Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

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.

I tried to live in the world after October fifteenth.
I tried and I failed.

High school junior Morgan Grant can divide her life into two parts: Before and after the devastating events of October 15. Before, Morgan was a bright, popular athlete with a promising future, whose days were filled with friends, sun, sand, swimming and school. After, Morgan is a survivor of a deadly tragedy whose worsening anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder have caused her to become a shadow of her former self. Traumatized by what she has experienced, terrified of a world she can neither control nor predict, and haunted by feelings of guilt and culpability (however misplaced) for what has transpired, Morgan’s agoraphobia worsens until she no longer is able to leave the confines of her family’s two bedroom apartment and she seeks comfort in a familiar, daily routine filled with little more than soap operas, home schooling, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Underwater is a sincere, heartfelt exploration of mental illness and a topical, all too important reminder that the story does not end when the final shot has been fired and the cameras finished rolling. For some, the story has only just begun.

Now my whole life is a race. Every minute leading to the next. Every day feeding into another. It’s a constant crossing of the finish live.

Morgan’s journey to recovery is a difficult one, but never unfairly so. Reichardt offers no easy answers or simple solutions for Morgan’s agoraphobia, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, but rather demonstrates the impressive mental and emotional labour and strength required to rediscover and remake oneself in the wake of unimaginable tragedy. Though Morgan’s progress is gradual and she often becomes frustrated with her missteps and failures along the way, Reichardt’s inherently charming and endearing protagonist is never presented as any less worthy of help, love or acceptance or as being beyond hope or recovery. Morgan is allowed to shine in other ways, most notable of which is evident in her devoted relationship with her single mother, a hard-working nurse, and her precocious younger brother, Ben, for whom she clearly cares deeply. Though the circumstances surrounding Morgan’s illness and the severity of what she suffers are arguably extreme, there’s little doubt that the essence of Morgan’s story – of being unashamed of one’s illness and working to better take care of oneself – will resonate with Underwater‘s readers, particularly those who also suffer from anxiety, as Morgan does.

They wanted to make sure I didn’t have something majorly wrong with me. I didn’t. Not exactly.
My heart was fine.
My brain was fine (sort of).
It turned out I wasn’t dying on the outside. I was only dying on the inside, where nobody could see.

From This Is Where It Ends to Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Violent Ends to We Need to Talk About Kevin, there have been no shortage of novels written the about the subject of school shootings in recent years, likely prompted in large part due to the increasing acts of gun violence in the United States and the subsequent lack of regulation in regard to gun control to better prevent said violence in the future. Many writers have tried to make sense of an act that is, by its very nature, senseless, but what differentiates Underwater from its peers is its chosen focus. While other stories have focused largely on the psychology and motivation of the perpetrator or the details of the shootings themselves, debut author Marisa Reichardt instead chooses to focus on the devastating aftermath of such an event. Reichardt neither sensationalizes nor exploits this topic, instead offering a sensitive, empathetic portrayal of the repercussions of such a tragedy. In doing so, Underwater has the potential to act as a source of comfort for those who suffer from anxiety, agoraphobia and/or post-traumatic stress disorder and an excellent resource for readers who wish to better understand and empathize with those who do.

I feel a panic attack coming on.
“I can’t do it.”
“Morgan,” Brenda says, “you’re already doing it.”

Underwater‘s synopsis does the novel a disservice in that it implies that Morgan’s recovery is predicated largely on Evan’s appearance in her life. In reality, this could not further from the truth. While a potential romantic relationship with Evan can (and arguably does) provide Morgan with an additional incentive to pursue treatment and regain some semblance of normality, it is not the sole motivating factor in her recovery. Prior to Evan’s introduction, Morgan had already been undergoing treatment for her anxiety, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder for a period of four months, a treatment that includes both the use of prescription medication and ongoing therapy with her psychologist, Brenda. As she explains to Brenda, Evan is emblematic of the life Morgan left behind and some of the things she misses most. Evan is described as reminding Morgan of summer and, by extension, “of string bikinis and tan lines, of parties and promises, of cold beer and warm kisses”. Morgan’s relationship with Evan is not perfect – Evan grows frustrated and impatient with Morgan’s progress (or lack thereof) and is not always as supportive or as understanding as one might hope – but it’s to be commended that their burgeoning romance is never presented as a solution to Morgan’s problems. There’s also something to be said for the strength and empowerment that can be drawn from a strong support system and the beauty in forming such a community. From her burgeoning relationship with Evan to her unconditional love for her mother and brother, Ben, Morgan has a number of positive relationships in her life from which she draws comfort and courage.

Her eyes tear up, but they’re tears of relief. Of happiness. Of hope.
I have them, too.
Just a few minutes ago we were on the pier, escaping reality. Now reality is back. But it’s a good reality. It’s a promising one.

Underwater is a poignant, powerful, and ultimately uplifting and inspiring story of recovery and forgiveness that successfully endeavours to lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness. It accomplishes this by providing readers with a positive and responsible portrayal of therapy and medication as effective tools in managing mental and emotional trauma and encouraging readers to embrace hope and possibility, even in the face of what might initially appear to be insurmountable obstacles. A genuinely kind and heartwarming narrative about triumph and love in the wake of adversity, Underwater offers readers a happy ending in a world that needs them, now more than ever.

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Here’s what some other reviewers had to say about it!

● Sarah @ Written Word Worlds wrote “Overall, Underwater is a poignant and heartwarming novel about love, loss, the importance of friendship and grilled cheese sandwiches. ” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Amanda @ Teen Librarian Toolbox wrote “This novel is a powerful look at grief, mental illness, trust, forgiveness, letting go, and moving on.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Katie @ Katie’s Book Blog wrote “Overall, Underwater is a fantastic debut that I can’t help but recommend. I look forward to seeing what Marisa Reichardt does next.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)