Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Early Bird Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Underwater by Marisa Reichardt
Publisher: Macmillan
Release: 7th April 2016
Genre: Contemporary, Mental Health
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"In order to move on after a traumatic experience, 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 is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on."

There are so many books out there about the horrors of high school shootings, but what made Underwater stand out for me is that this book takes place months after the shooting showing the long term effect trauma has on people’s lives. One moment can change you forever.

Underwater follows Morgan who, in the months after the shooting at her high school, has become a recluse. For months Morgan hasn’t stepped foot outside of her home, her world has shrunk to a routine of online schooling, grilled cheese lunches, daytime TV and afternoon visits with her therapist. When it takes all of your energy to control your panic attacks and triggers daily life can be overwhelming. Underwater is Morgan’s journey in learning to live again after the very worst has happened.

Underwater was a very personal read for me. Although my situation isn’t the same as Morgan’s, I too have panic attacks and PTSD that make it difficult for me to leave my house. I found that so many passages of this book were relatable to me – a sure sign that Marisa Reichardt has done her research and that the story rings true to the struggle of mental health recovery.

When I first discovered that there’s a romance in this book I was worried that it’d be a case of ‘girl meets boy and magically recovers from her mental health problems’ but I’m happy to report that that wasn’t the case at all. This is very much Morgan’s journey in working through her fears, finding inner strength and learning how to live again. The romance is a very minor aspect of the story as Evan joins Morgan’s mom, brother and therapist cheering her on from the side-lines.

As well as Morgan’s relationship with Evan she has so many other wonderful connections in this book. It’s something that Marisa Reichardt really excels at in her writing. Morgan’s mom and brother were so supportive and I loved reading about Morgan’s sessions with her therapist. I think that the most interesting relationship to read about was the relationship Morgan had with her dad and how after his time in Afghanistan their stories parallel.

Underwater was such an emotional read about learning to swim and push through the rough waters that try to hold you down. This book is about courage, second chances and forgiveness. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a realistic and sensitive portrayal on mental health recovery.

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