Girl out of Water by Laura Silverman
Published by: Sourcefire Books
Released: 1st May 2017
Read: 26 April 2017
Girl out of Water does a couple of things really well. It sets up an effective contrast of protagonist Anise’s two environments—the ocean, the sense of freedom, the comfort of home against the alien stark, dryness of the place she is forced to travel to. This establishes Anise’s mind set – In California everything is comfortable, familiar and supportive. In Nebraska there is only responsibility, obligation and isolation. Anise is leaving behind friends, potential love interests, and the chance to catch up with her absent mother. Straightaway there is conflict and a heavy sense of guilt, making Anise a character readers will readily identify with, as she accepts the enforced change.
Anise’s development through the novel is another high point. She learns to adapt to life looking after her three cousins while their mother recuperates from a serious car accident. She spends time talking to her father, really talking, about serious matters, although her flighty mother isn’t one of them (unfortunately). She challenges herself to learn to skateboard which is nothing like her beloved surfing, but adapting and showing courage is something Anise excels at.
The introduction of the charismatic Lincoln breathes fresh air into Anise, and his teasing charming smile certainly makes her life better. While there is instant attraction on both sides, Silverman wisely lets the romance build slowly. It’s complicated of course, because just before she left Santa Cruz, Anise kissed her best friend Eric and they didn’t really have a chance to talk. This is a part of the novel that I struggled with—In moving to Nebraska, Anise stops talking to all her friends, people she has known all her life. There are reasons given for this behaviour—she’s jealous they are having fun without her, she is caught up with the trauma of her younger cousins, she doesn’t have anything really to say to them (and yeah, that’s true enough)—but I felt the story didn’t really need that drama.
Because the other element of the story is Anise’s mother, an absent and negative influence in her life. She can’t help but compare herself to this woman, who flits around the country, only dropping in occasionally before whisking off again. She in unreliable, unpredictable and perhaps a little trope-y. We see this woman far too much in YA, and the only redeeming feature about its use here, is that she remains off-page, and we don’t have to see her turn up and hurt Anise one more time. By the end, Anise is more confident of her own power, her own strengths. Her realisations that she doesn’t have to stay to be loyal is a huge step towards reconciling her disappointments and insecurities.
I need to talk more about Lincoln. He represents the positive energy in the world. His optimism, his ability to celebrate nature, and love himself is a strong force in the novel. He has one arm, but it’s not a disability or limitation, or an obstacle. Nothing stands in his way, and Anise can see how he role models to the younger kids at the skate park. As well, he is an adopted child. His blended family (Vietnamese parents, Caucasian younger brother, while Lincoln is black) is presented as an accepted and loving group, and I enjoyed all the stories he shares with Anise about them. Such positive representations are welcome in all novels.
Copy was provided by publisher, via Netgalley, and read with thanks. Recommended to readers who love their main characters sporty and fearless. The romance builds slowly, but turns into a loving and committed relationship. The young children in the story are realistic and not just there to serve the plot. They have their own troubles and develop into fully developed characters. While Anise’s mother is problematic, the other adults balance out with their supportive and caring portrayals. There is a road trip, and a satisfying resolution of the estranged friends. Released 1st May.