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This is the second debut novel that I’ve read in the past few months. Coincidentally, a lot of books I’ve gotten from the library are debut novels. They fascinate me, because they’re an introduction to the type of writing that this author does, and the idea that got them noticed in the first place. Today’s review will be on the debut novel from Marisa Reichardt, called Underwater.

Underwater is narrated in first person by Morgan, a teenager who experienced a shooting at her high school. Since then, she has become completely withdrawn from the world, spending her days in her family’s apartment, completing her studies online, watching television and reflecting on feeling safe “underwater.” Her life is further complicated by the absence of her father, whom suffered from PTSD from being deployed. However, she finds solace in spending time with her younger brother Ben and seeing her therapist, Brenda.  When new guy Evan moves in next door, Morgan finds that he might be the key to helping her re-enter the life she once had and help her begin to recover.

This is the first novel I’ve read that involves a school shooting- a somewhat taboo subject that unfortunately has become commonplace in society. Although intense, I admit that it was refreshing to read a story that didn’t have the main source of the protagonist’s stress be divorce, moving to a new town, starting a new school, or other, similar cliches.

I like that Reichardt took a realistic perspective for Morgan. She  portrays her as a character who is getting help and who has good days and bad days. Everyday is not the same. Morgan is not somebody who magically feels better after just a few therapy sessions.

I look forward to reading more Reichardt’s work because she tackles touchy subjects with realism and isn’t afraid of writing characters who have realistic problems.


Flirting with Fame

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Flirting with Fame is a novel I stumbled upon by way of Twitter. The hashtag stood out to me, so I clicked on it to see what is was. A debut novel that had just been released and was available on an ebook? I decided to check it out.

Elise Jameson is a nineteen-year-old girl who has scars and is deaf from an accident at age 13. She is also the author of a best-selling book series under the pen name Aubrey Lynch. When her first book came out three years before, Elise sent her agent a picture of a girl she had found off of Google, not wanting people to know who she really was. When her book series is adapted for a television adaptation, Elise learns that they want Aubrey Lynch on set for consultation. Panicked, she manages to track down her photo imposter, whom she learns is named Veronica. The two of them strike a deal for Veronica to pretend to be Aubrey and Elise as her assistant. Elise struggles to balance her college life with new friends Regina and Clint and be on the television set mingling with the famous, and write the final book of her series.

I like the unique elements of this story. Although Elise is deaf, she is able to read lips and use sign language. I haven’t read a book lately that has a deaf character, so I was fascinated by the presence of American Sign Language in the story. Joyce makes it clear that those who are deaf are just as capable to accomplish goals.

She and her roommate Regina also get along, a nice change from many stories I have read that make the protagonist and roommate the enemies.

I also found the element of Elise being afraid of fame fascinating as well. Millions of people, myself included, have often wondered what being famous is like. Fame can be good, but has the power to change somebody’s life. The story casts light on how fame has different ways of manifesting. A movie or rock star are much more likely to be approached by fans, whereas an author might not be recognized right away. I had never thought about it in that way before.

Honestly, I was a little irked when I first read what the novel was about. I had been working on a novel with a similar premise and finding that there is now a story with similar elements means I will likely have to shelve it. However, I’m actually working on another memoir/novel, so it’s not a total loss.

Samantha Joyce is a good writer, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from her. I’m pretty sure that’s her real name and picture on the book jacket…