Review: Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Friday, May 5, 2017
Title: Girl Out of Water
Author: Laura Silverman
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: May 2 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/5

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.

Some books are perfect for summer reading. Girl out of Water is definitely one of these; a breezy but heartfelt YA contemporary about growing up and moving on. It's entertaining but sincere and inclusive in equal measure. Bolstered by a great voice and personality in the main character of Anise and an engaging romance involving a black, one-armed badass skateboarder, Laura Silverman's debut novel is fun but also capable of really bringing the feels.

Surfer-girl Anise's story picks up right at the beginning of summer before she and her friends disperse into different directions - some bound for college, or off to serve in the military, or to endure one final year of high school. Her feelings of displacement and confusion about her future are not only about college but about the evolving nature of friendships and belonging, especially when her final summer and friend traditions are usurped by family emergencies and..... landlocked Nebraska.

Besides growing up, family is a big theme for Girl out of Water and its characters. Anise is haunted by her mother - a woman who flits in and out of her life but leaves the most impression when she is leaving. Lincoln, her swoon-worthy love interest who isn't defined by his disability or his race, also wrestles with family issues. The two bond and bicker over similarities and obvious differences; they have great chemistry and their banter is charming and fun. Anise has to grow a bit when it comes to her relationship; she comes from a place of privilege that must be acknowledged a couple times in the novel.

Anise's family, especially her cousins, and Lincoln himself are more defined and well-developed than her friends back in California, or anyone connected to Lincoln's character. I liked the inclusive nature to the group of friends and family but because they only appear as bookends to Anise's central plot, it can feel hollow (which is why it's also so easy to forget Anise had a love interest before Lincoln showed up). Anise and Lincoln steal the show and carry the novel, which is why I have so little issues upon finishing Girl out of Water. The ending may be a bit open-ended for readers who prefer finality, but Anise and Lincoln's futures look bright. As does the future of Laura Silverman, since her debut was refreshingly authentic.

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