Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
Genre: YA Contemporary | Release Date: May 2, 2017 | My Rating:
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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?
*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, which in no way sways how much I loved this book!*
Do you ever pick up a book randomly, only to realize that it was pretty much exactly what you needed? Girl Out of Water was this book for me. I’ve read a lot of heavy books lately, for good reason obviously, but this book just warmed my soul like the California sun on my skin—or at least, how I imagine the Cali sun would feel, based on Laura Silverman’s beautiful descriptions.
cute contemporary with a unique premise.
Girl Out of Water follows Anise Sawyer as she leaves her hometown—and her surfing obsession—behind for the summer, heading to Nebraska to help out her family as her aunt recovers from a near-fatal car accident. Anise doesn’t know the first thing about taking care of her cousins, two nine-year-old twin boys with tons of energy, or their sister, the withdrawn 12-year-old who’s unwilling to talk about her problems. Anise is terrified of leaving her home and her close-knit group of friends behind in the last summer they all have before several of them head off to college. Meanwhile, she’s dealing with never knowing when her adventuring absent mom is going to show up—oh, and the adorable one-armed black guy she meets at the skate park.
This is the only book I’ve ever read about a surfer girl and probably the second book I’ve ever read about skateboarding. It’s a unique premise that kept me interested. Anise is a wonderful main character with some of my favorite attributes: she’s flawed, she’s stubborn, and she’s got some stuff to work out. Her voice is extremely relatable. Her fears of losing her friends to time and distance really resonated with me, as I’ve now moved away from friend groups three times in the last five years.
On top of that, the side characters are incredibly diverse, including Anise’s Samoan best friend and a biracial lesbian couple back in Cali; Lincoln and his white brother, both adopted by a Vietnamese father; and even Lincoln’s friend in Utah, Wendy, is described as an Asian girl with pink hair. And while you could say this is the author checking off a bunch of diversity boxes, the book absolutely doesn’t read that way. Anise just lives in a diverse world; it doesn’t really phase her. What I loved even more was that Anise sometimes f*cks up, her white and able-bodiedness making her look stupid—but she learns. None of these characters are defined by their marginalization which is incredibly refreshing to read.
realistic, every day struggles.
This isn’t a heavily plot-driven book. Rather, it’s a book about single-parent families and about leaving home for the first time. Anise deals with realistic but everyday struggles, which I loved (but I realize it’s not for everyone).
I appreciated the focus on single-parent families. I hate how often YA authors under-write their parental figures, but Silverman doesn’t fall into that trap. Anise’s dad seriously should get the #1 Fictional Dad Award: he communicates openly and honestly, respects his daughter but also holds her accountable. A main portion of the book focuses on their relationship as well as the extended family of Aunt Jackie—another single parent—and her kids. I seriously think single parents don’t get enough credit, and this was a heart-warming account.
The main plot—aside from the romance—is about Anise grappling with her absent mom, the woman who has run out on them more times than she can count, the woman who appears at will every couple of years, then disappears without a trace. Anise’s “mama drama” drives the novel, as she wonders if she’s becoming her mother by leaving her friends behind in Cali. At no point, though, does it really feel overdramatic or used for shock value. And there isn’t some sort of neat ending, either; Anise has to accept her mother’s absence while learning to move forward with her own life.
I’d like to think I’m pretty picky when it comes to romance, but Lincoln had my heart from the very first time he and Anise met at the skate park. He’s just such a warm, inviting character who’s not defined by his blackness or his disability. He’s an adventurer, a nature-loving guy who’s spent his entire life never living in one place for long—which goes to show that being a wanderer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an asshole like Anise’s mom.
Lincoln falls into the category of my favorite type of book boyfriend/girlfriend: the romantic interest who helps the character grow into their full potential. Lincoln’s adventurous personality helps Anise let go of her fear of new places and people—plus he teaches her how to skateboard, which is just adorable. Their relationship progresses at a realistic pace where the anticipation is palpable to the reader.
what’s not to love?
I really struggled to find anything at all wrong with this delightful read. If I had to give one caveat, it would be this: the ending left me wanting a little more. I wanted to see if Anise and Lincoln maintain their relationship—because there aren’t enough (positive) stories about long distance relationships. And I wanted to see Anise apply to colleges outside of Santa Cruz and take the plunge into the rest of her life.
I seem to have this problem a lot: where I enjoy a book so much that my only complaint is that it had to end. Nevertheless, I do have a problem with the fact that the book ends before Anise and Lincoln have The Talk about where their relationship is going; this is a trope I’ve seen a lot in YA, where the story ends just as the relationship is beginning. But again, this is probably a personal preference.
I highly recommend Girl Out of Water. It’s the adorable, heartwarming YA contemporary you need on your summer TBR.
Now! What are you waiting for!