I met Laura Silverman at the end of my orientation at New School. I was a nervous and slightly overwhelmed new student who’d moved to New York City that week and was still scared of taking the subway. She was a confident and wise second year in my MFA program, who told me to check out my now-favorite bookstore Books of Wonder and gave advice about professors. Even though she was younger than me, I definitely looked up to her – and I still do. So it was lovely to lose myself in her debut novel Girl Out of Water this weekend. I started reading it on a sunny day in the park. After having to take a break for a friend’s dinner party, I finished the book late that night. As much as I like sleep, I liked Anise’s story better. Seventeen-year-old Anise loves surfing and is intensely connected to her California hometown. But when her aunt is injured, she and her Dad must spend the summer in Nebraska helping to take care of Anise’s three younger cousins. Anise expects a summer of boredom and wistfully checking up on her friends back home. But a cute, one-armed skateboarder named Lincoln (swoon!) and her growing connection to her cousins, cause her to lose touch with her friends and her surfer identity in Santa Cruz.
Anise’s mother, or perhaps lack thereof, also plays an integral role in the story. Her mom’s abandoned Anise and her father several times. The expectation of a visit from her looms over the story. And when Anise falls out of contact with her hometown friends, she begins to worry that she’s repeating her mother’s mistakes.
The first thing that stood out while I was reading, was the descriptive language. I could feel Anise’s love of surfing from the opening description of her out in the ocean. The settings were vibrant. The food was incredible specific and delicious-sounding. Atmospherically, I was hooked.
It didn’t take long for me to feel the same way about the characters. Although there is a strong element of romance, this is Anise’s story. I loved ever agonizing minute of her internal struggles. I especially liked how the story centered around sacrifice, family obligation, and young children (who often seem to be absent from YA).
I’m sure no matter what I would have liked this book, because I like Laura. But the writing seriously blew me away. I look forward to reading the many more novels I’m sure she will publish in the future. If they contain just some of the diversity, nuance, and realness of Girl out of Water then I’ll be happy.