Monday, 30 March 2015 / No comments

Review: Girl Underwater by Claire Kells

Title: Girl Underwater
Author: Claire Kells
Publisher: Bantam (Random House)
Date of Publication: 1st April 2015
Source: ARC courtesy of Random House Australia.

Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university's nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations, but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.

That all changes when Avery's cross-country flight home makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and her team mate, Colin Shea, whom she's avoided since the first day of freshman year. 

Now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could have imagined.

This is not a book you want to start at 11pm when you have an early start the next morning. Trust me. 

We start with Avery running late to catch her plane from California to Boston. It's a long flight, and she's not impressed when she ends up sitting next to her swim team nemesis, Colin. Avery and Colin survive the crash that kills most of the passengers on board, and what follows is a harrowing ordeal. When she is eventually rescued, Avery finds that her recovery, physical and mental, is just beginning.

The story is told in a disjointed manner that jumps back and forth between the present and the time spent awaiting rescue. In this way we learn gradually how Avery's current mental state came to be, why she is so keen to avoid the other survivors, and what exactly happened on that mountain. We also find out why she was so keen to avoid Colin.

Avery finds it very difficult to slot back into her old life. Her studies, her place on the swim team and her boyfriend are all waiting for her when she's ready to return, and she wants to, but something is holding her back, and she just can't bring herself to get in the water.

This book deals with PTSD in a realistic and honest way, and is worth reading for that alone. The story kept me up until all hours because I just had to finish it to find out how Avery would resolve her situation. My only criticism is that there's a big jump between where things are left at the end of the final chapter, and where we find Avery in the epilogue and the two don't really seem to match up, but that could just be me. It was still a compelling read and I highly recommend it.

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