Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.
Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?
The thing that I think I enjoyed most about this book, and its crowning achievement is relatability. Though Anise has a very different personality and experiences to me, the way she reacted to situations was just very real. I think Laura Silverman really managed to strike the balance between writing an authentic teenager and writing a mature, rational character. Sometimes in fiction (mostly in John Green books), the teen characters are either unrealistic in their maturity, or are too juvenile for me, as a teenager, to relate to. Girl Out of Water definitely didn’t have that problem for me, as Anise makes sensible, moral decisions, but also has to deal with the consequences and has a good old moan about it sometimes – who doesn’t?
Good things are infinite too.
The optimism in this book is also something I really liked, whether that be optimism in the strength of family and friendships, or the strength of an individual. Anise’s story, while we feel her frustration and anxieties, is one so full of hope. It has the feel of a transition book between sixth form/college and university and is rooted in both reality and idealism – what constitutes the ‘right’ kind of experience, and then discovering that the ‘right’ attitude is: who gives a shit? At least, that’s the message I took away.
The characters were also enjoyable to read about, especially within the family dynamic between Anise and her cousins, Emery and the twins. Being the youngest of the family, I never really experienced looking after smaller siblings but I felt that Anise’s resigned, exasperated love she has for the children (and teenager) she has become semi-responsible for, extremely realistic and endearing. It wasn’t a perfect, cookie-cutter family, but neither was there extreme angst and drama. Though they may struggle with their respective problems, they are still always respectful and loving, and again realistic.
I also very much liked Anise’s dad, though he wasn’t in the book too much. The scenes he did pop up in, I enjoyed how he had a camaraderie with Anise, more than he had a traditional parental relationship with her. He was a great alternative to the stereotypical ‘missing’ parents in YA.
Anise herself, as I mentioned previously, is mentally strong and capable, even through her struggles. However, I also really appreciated how she had passions, and a fully formed past and present, with different relationships that constantly affect her and her outlook on life. I’d love to see more characters with hobbies in fiction which aren’t the typical painting or running, and which play a part in a character’s life rather than something that fills time. Surfing is a part of Anise’s life as much as her family is, and colours her thought-processes throughout the book, not just when it’s convenient.
Diversity in the characters is also seamlessly included, with Lincoln being black and having one arm, and having POC and LGBTQIAP+ characters in Anise’s friend circle in Santa Cruz. Lincoln and her brother are also adopted, and have a loving relationship with their adoptive parents. However, other than knowing he wanted to travel the world and loved nature, I found myself with not having too much of a grasp on Lincoln’s character. I loved his interactions with Anise and the parts of his personality I did see, but I just wish I’d gotten a little more of him.
As for the writing itself, Girl Out of Water the kind of easy-flowing, relaxing prose that just had me turning pages without really realising I was doing it until I’d read a whole lot of pages I had no recollection of consciously reading. This really impacted the pacing of this book, which otherwise could have been extremely slow, given that it is very character-focused without a real solid plot. However, everything fit and flowed perfectly, which is testament to Laura Silverman’s talent. I’ll be picking up more of her books in the future, definitely!
This book would be absolutely perfect to read at the beach, so if you haven’t picked it up yet and you have a beach day coming up this summer – you know what to do! It made me rue living in the English countryside!
Have you read Girl Out of Water? If so, please please comment! I’d love nothing more than to be able to talk to someone about this lovely book!
Until the next one,