Cover of Girl Underwater, with a girl standing in her clothes in a lake, enhanced by blue watercolor

About the Book

Title: Girl Underwater
Published: 2015
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Watercolor
BFF Charm: Let Me Love You
Talky Talk: Now And Then
Bonus Factors: College, Swimming
Relationship Status: A Pool Of Emotion

Cover Story: Watercolor

I see what you did there, cover designer.

The Deal:

When Avery stepped onto a plane bound for Boston, her main concern was avoiding Colin, a fellow swim team member whose very (magnetic) presence made her uncomfortable. A few hours later, she had much, much bigger problems to worry about. The plane crashed, killing everyone on board except for Avery, Colin, and three small children, and their odds of survival steadily diminished with each day in the frozen Colorado wilderness.

A month later, Avery has physically recovered, but emotionally, she’s as torn up as the plane wreckage. She wants to return to her former life, a world that includes college and swimming and her boyfriend, Lee, but she can’t even dip her toes in the water, let alone normalcy. Plagued by nightmares and flashbacks, Avery knows only one person who can truly understand… and Colin is the last person she wants to see.

BFF Charm: Let Me Love You

BFF charm with teary eyes hugging a heart

This is gonna sound bad, but I don’t think I would have been besties with Avery before the plane crash. Pre-disaster Avery seems nice but passive, a girl just trying to blend in. Once that flight makes impact, Avery’s true colors shine forth in a fierce blaze as she fights to keep Colin and the three kids alive. She’s incredibly strong, which makes her subsequent breakdown all the more heartbreaking to witness. I know hugs can’t cure PTSD, but damn it if I didn’t want to wrap my arms around her constantly, even when she was not making good choices. An ordinary girl grappling with overwhelming tragedy, Avery made me into her biggest cheerleader by learning, slowly and painfully, how to live again.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

What is it about terrible conditions and lack of cleanliness that make for so much SEXINESS? (See: The 100.) Yes, extreme situations can generate extreme romance, but in the case of Avery and Colin, there’s a preexisting connection that is deepened by their shared struggle to survive. It doesn’t hurt that Colin is as kind as he is hot (which is to say, very kind and VERY HOT). Avery’s lucky that I couldn’t leap from the page into the story because I would have been ALL OVER that boy. Swimmer’s body? Piercing blue eyes? Great with kids? Warm but enigmatic? Claire Kells really knows how to write ’em, and she also knows how to use ’em. The more Avery tries to push Colin away, the more she finds herself pulling him in, and their chemistry builds to highly flammable levels. Like seriously, keep a fire extinguisher close by.

Talky Talk: Now And Then

Avery’s narration shifts back and forth between her post-crash days in the wilderness and her life a month later. Although it’s no secret that our heroine survives, Kells still kept me on the edge of my seat with strategic reveals and jolts of raw emotion. This book is a page-turner, no doubt about it, but Kells never rushes when it comes to character development, and the result is a thoughtful, engrossing portrait of trauma and recovery.

Bonus Factor: College

Scene from Felicity, with Felicity and Ben sitting on the floor of a dorm room with books

There’s not much about the actual experience of college in this book, but I enjoyed the fact that Avery is college-aged. It’s a time of life that deserves more exploration than the weak attempts known as New Adult* have given it. (Okay, officially stepping off soapbox now.)

*Interesting fact: this book was published as an adult novel. Insert “Adult Swim” joke here.

Bonus Factor: Swimming

A man swimming underwater in lane in a pool

I may or may not have had a massive crush on a swimmer in high school, but that never really got me interested in the sport. Avery’s passion for the water (well, pre-crash) gave me some insight into why people subject themselves to all of that chlorine.

Relationship Status: A Pool Of Emotion

Book, after reading your premise, I dove head first into my relationship with you, so thank god you weren’t shallow. Simmering with desire and aching with turmoil, you left me breathless, and I wish I could think of another swimming analogy to describe how ardently I devoured your intense, captivating story.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Dutton Books. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). 

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.