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