REVIEW: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt


Underwater is a beautiful story. It show the reader how people deal with tragedies in different ways.

Told from the point of view of Morgan, a high school student who survived a horrific school shooting that left her with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and agoraphobia, Underwater is a beautifully moving story. It’s a great read that showcases to the reader the effects of harsh events on the human psyche and how people deal with tragedies in different ways.

The Blurb:

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.

Everything about this story was amazing: the writing, the theme, the dialogue, but one of my favorite things about this story was the underlying message. The message that having hope is one of the best things in the world. It can get you through the rough times in life and it’s something that everyone should have. Even if it’s as simple as just hoping that things will get better for yourself, or hoping that we as humans can do anything we set our minds to or just hoping that the world will have peace. It’s a beautiful message that’s very uplifting and made me feel like anything is possible that life has no limits.


Heroine: Morgan’s awesome! I really liked her. When I first started reading the book, I expected that from what she’s been through that she’d be this shy, introverted teenager, but she’s wasn’t. Even with everything that’s happened to her, she’s still this sweet, sarcastic individual. She’s always making these funny one-liners that had me laughing out loud.

“Welcome to Paradise Manor, Evan. Ain’t it grand?”
“Yeah,” I say. “I bet you didn’t realize paradise has a view of the Dumpster and no AC.”

She’s very relatable, and my favorite thing about her was the love that she had for family, especially for her little brother, Ben. It was so freaking adorable! The way that she talked about him was truly moving. The love she had for her brother was one of the things that pushed her to change. To want to heal and be a better person for herself and him.

I think of Ben on the day he was born, all chubby and pink and bald. I think of the way newborn Ben wrapped his tiny fingers around one of mine. I think of sitting next to my mom’s hospital bed and rocking him under dim lights while he slept in my arms. I fall asleep to a feeling of a love I never knew until my brother got there.

Hero: Evan was really cute! He’s your typical surfer boy with sun-bleached hair who smells like the beach and ocean. But what I really liked about him was how funny  he was and how he’s always able to make Morgan laugh. He’s also very caring and sweet. One thing that annoyed me about him was when Morgan was having a mini breakdown and ignored him for a few days (basically pushing him away), he snaps at her, saying that she’s not the only one effected by the shooting and that she needs to get over her “pity party.” That umm….pissed me off a bit, especially since he NEVER apologizes for saying it, even though Morgan later apologizes for pushing him away. No matter the circumstances, that’s a shi*ty thing to say to someone who’s experienced what Morgan has.

High Points:

Romance: The romance between Morgan and Evan happened sort of fast. It definitely had that “insta” love factor going on, but that didn’t bother me too much. I think because I liked the way that they interacted and talked with each other, and felt that overall they made a great couple. (Even though Evan acts like a prick sometimes.)

“You don’t wanna move your car?” Evan asked.
“I can’t.”
“But like I said, it’s in the way.”
“How about you move it?”
“You want me to move your car? You just called me a stranger five seconds ago. What if I steal it and sell it on Craigslist?”
“You won’t. Let me get the keys.”

Family Bond: One thing that I love to see in YA fiction is close family relationships. Strong parental bonds and strong sibling bonds….etc. Morgan’s family, her mom and little brother, were a great support system for her. Her father’s an alcoholic veteran, and she juggles with loving him and not wanting to turn out like him. I don’t want to give too much away, but I just loved Morgan’s family and loved how tight and close they were as a family.

I sink down on the chaise lounge and into her. I curl up into a ball, and she hugs me. Her robe smells faintly of cigarette smoke, but more of laundry detergent. And the smell of her is there, too. The smell that is my mom. It’s a smell I can’t explain, but it makes me feel safe and loved no matter what. She tucks my head under her chin and holds me tight. She holds me in. And then we cry together, letting go over everything, but each other.

The Writing: This story is filled with great quotes, and funny dialogue. It’s simplistically written yet filled with awesome, creative sentences like this:

I like the sound of the sizzle of the butter as it hits the pan. It’s a reminder of how quickly things change. One second you’re whole, the next you’re melted.

Voice: Morgan’s voice really shines through, and as I was reading, it felt like Morgan was in front of me, personally telling me her story. I really connected with her.

I was someone who could go on and on forever, steady and even, then finish hard to pull the win. Now, my whole life is a race. Every minute leading to the next. Every day feeding into another. It’s a constant crossing the finish line. It’s like playing a fast song slow.

Low Points: 

Reason Morgan starts to heal: At the start of the story, Morgan’s juggling with her PTSD and agoraphobia and shows NO signs or motivation that she wants to start healing and getting better. But when she meets Evan, that all changes. Right when Evan appears—after talking to the boy twice *in the same day*, she just suddenly wants to get better. Because of him. Not because of her mother and brother who’ve been supporting her the whole time or even just for herself. But because of Evan, the cute boy-next-door.

Her perspective changes rather quickly as the story progresses and she starts wanting to get better for herself and her family, which was great.

Overall, I enjoyed Underwater and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction.

A powerful, insightful read


Underwater is a powerful, amazing novel. It deals with so many heavy issues like mental illness and alcoholism, but also integrates sweet topics like sibling love, family bonds and sweet romance. This story has so many layers to it, and really leaves an imprint on the reader.

“A shelf without books is a lonely soul.” I’m a twenty-something writer and book nerd who enjoys entertaining and being entertained by words.

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