Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fifteen and Longing: A Look into DARK WATER

See what books some of the other fab Bookanistas are highlighting today:


  • Elana Johnson is loving LOSING FAITH.
  • Christine Fonseca - is showering praise for her BOOKANISTA buds and their covers.
  • Beth Revis recommends INCARCERON.
  • Lisa and Laura Roecker are gushing over some fab covers.
  • Kirsten Hubbard praises PARANORMALCY.




    So, yeah, no matter how much you love a book, it’s not always easy to express why. And this one was a toughie. It was just a feeling, you know? When you just know something is for you. It felt familiar and sparked memories for me. Like when you catch a scent in the air that throws you back into your childhood, or maybe it’s a sound. Like when I hear a whirring fan, sometimes I smile and sigh because for a moment, I can remember lying in bed on summer nights, feeling sticky and freezing from the box fan in the window sucking in all the dewy late night moisture from outside. It’s in the enclosed sound of that fan that I did so much of my adolescent thinking and angsting. Reading DARK WATER was like listening to the soft sound of a fan on low.

    But let me see if I can explain in slightly less abstract terms why I love this book .

    DARK WATER by Laura McNeal

    Dark Water

    Goodreads ddescription: Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it’s sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn’t pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel’s makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship—and a forbidden romance.

    Then the wildfires strike. Fallbrook—the town of marigolds and palms, blood oranges and sweet limes—is threatened by the Agua Prieta fire, and a mandatory evacuation order is issued. But Pearl knows that Amiel is in the direct path of the fire, with no one to warn him, no way to get out. Slipping away from safety and her family, Pearl moves toward the dark creek, where the smoke has become air, the air smoke.


     DARK WATER can probably be summed up in one word: LONGING.

    Now, have a look at that cover. The girl wades into the water, her eyes closed, her face tilted upward. You can practically hear in her mind: please. Brilliant, no?  So freaking moving just to look at it. And they used one of the focal points within the story, the dark water, to convey that sense of mystery which pervades the entire book.

    From the outset, we know that there is some great fire that breaks out (so no mystery there) and we know something life-changing will result from it; we just don’t know what or how it is she gets to that point. We know there’s love and that fifteen year old Pearl is connected to Amiel, but there’s such a strong sense of desperation throughout, a  sense of inevitability that nearly takes your breath away. It’s clear that Pearl is looking back from some point in the future; yet it never feels as if she’s withholding anything from you. It’s more like the story is simply unfolding organically, but with a glimpse of the end which only whets your appetite. You think you know how it will end, but every ounce of your readerly being hopes you’re wrong. The story itself is overlaid with want want want, but we all know that at fifteen, want always feels more like need need need, so it made sense that I felt that too. Indeed, DARK WATER captures the very essence of what it means to be fifteen.

    There’s not a whole lot of action in this, at least not until nearing the end—not in the same sense as HUNGER GAMES or the like—although it isn’t a static story either. It was moving and flowing the entire time. But certainly, DARK WATER is more character driven, and perhaps that’s why it felt, in part, like such an emotional book for me. And the voice was so unbelievably genuine, so…fifteen. I truly felt like I was experiencing the world through the eyes of a real girl, not just some blank canvas that will let a reader fill in the white space with her own personality. And yet, while her personality was very distinct, I felt like she experienced so many of the same sort of crushing emotions I felt at the same age. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t all angsty and OMGtheDRAMA! It was far more subtle than that, more real and intense, like a mature soul facing the realities of life for the first time.

    And the prose was simply astounding. I don’t know what more to say aside from…WOW. I felt my own writerly envy kicking in. Just an example:

    If he had run, I could have chased him and known what I was doing, because I know how to be eight, nine, ten, and eleven, but he stood up and looked as confused as I felt (ARC 180-1)

    Like I said, fifteen. At fifteen, we have no idea how to live inside of ourselves, and yet we long to be a part of the world, to not only know who we are, but to feel alive. Laura McNeal captured that feeling beautifully.

    So, I’ve never done this with a review before. But this book was so moving, so evocative, reminding me exactly how awful and hard and beautiful it is to grow up, that I couldn’t help but think of this song. Probably one of my favorite songs ever.


    Go pick up a copy of DARK WATER. Soak it in. It’s gorgeous.


    1. Added it to my to-read list. Thanks for the recommendation! :D

    2. I need to read this book. Thanks for the review!

    3. LOve this review. Since I literally live up the streat from Fallbrook, and I remember all the fires well, Ithis will hit home. But more, that song at the of my all time favs! HUGS

    4. What an incredible cover and intriguing tale.

      As always, your reviews make my mouth water.

    5. Sounds fabulous! I want to read it even more now. Good thing I have a friend with an ARC, better go borrow it... ;)

    6. Thanks for the review! Now I'm longing to read Dark Water. ;)

    7. Another book to add to the list...

    8. Great review, Carol. I know what you mean about not always being able to pinpoint exactly why we like a book. I felt that way with Mother of Pearl. I ended up really liking it, after NOT liking it for a good portion of it, but have never been able to articulate why. But I do always recommend it. :-)

    9. Oooh, I love LONGING. Like, love it. There is something about that feeling that I enjoy feeling when I read. Great review! And I love the title and cover of this book. I'm definitely adding it to my TBR pile.

    10. Oh what a fab review! It's brilliant when a book ellicits such a feeling of one's past because it captures that moment beautifully!

      Thanks for the intro to this book and author - and the song is lovely - I've not heard of it so it was nice to listen to! Thank you!

      Take care

    11. This is definitely on my TBR list. :D

    12. okay, wow. I've never heard of this one, but Fallbrook's half an hour away, and the San Diego wildfires were the closest thing to an apocalypse I've experienced. I'll definitely check out this book. great review!

    13. Thanks for the review. Haven't heard of Dark Water, but glad I now have. :)

    14. You are so good at reviewing books! Even when you say you can't put your finger on it . . . wow! I'd sit there and say "ummmm . . ." but you still make it shine! I always love your reviews.

    15. I think there's one word for this review, too: lyrical.

    16. Great review! And I love that song too!

    17. This looks like a great book....
      I loved your review!

    18. Just the little passage you put in there made me want to read this book all the more. Thanks for the review!!

    19. Thanks for the review, my tbr list keeps on growing.

    20. Oooh, I do love character driven books and the idea of longing is tantalizing. One more book for the goodreads pile! LOL

    21. I think this is one for Not-So-Bebe Girl's Christmas book box! Thanks for the review!

      Julie @ Knitting and Sundries


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