Thank you to Peachtree/Peachtree Teen and Netgalley for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. (Published March 7, 2023)
I adored this YA coming of age gem! The book follows Brynn, a young bisexual teen struggling with severe anxiety, as she’s forced to spend her summer away from her home in Cincinnati, Ohio to instead live with her father on his houseboat in Florida. Brynn’s mother sends her away for a “technology free retreat” after discovering an alarming internet post on her daughter’s blog. While exploring the bayou, Brynn meets a mysterious girl named Skylar who shares that she’s bound to the water. Upon discovering this, Brynn makes it her mission to help Skylar escape before the end of the summer.
Originally, I believed this book to be a queer romance, but that’s my mistake for failing to properly read the synopsis. Brynn’s queerness is explored as she makes connections throughout the story, but the plot focuses on her individual journey more than any single connection. The depiction of Brynn’s mental state was well executed, and compassionately showcased the debilitating impact anxiety/OCD/ADHD can have. Despite her proclivity for self-sabotage, Brynn is a character who was easy for me to sympathize with, all things considered.
Despite the heaviness, the novel remained hopeful and at times, funny. Brynn was a complex protagonist, witty while insecure, introspective and angsty. Her interactions with her parents were reminiscent of conversations I had at her age. The narrative voice felt authentically “teen” and not simply an author attempting to write youthfully.
Additionally, the atmosphere was beautifully constructed, with detailed prose that made the bayou come alive. (Side note: I read the book while in Florida, which made my reading experience extra special.)
My main critique is of Brynn’s relationship arc with Skylar. I would’ve enjoyed more interactions between the two. Their dynamic would’ve been more intriguing if we’d seen more of them together on the page; their progression felt a bit rushed. However, Brynn’s relationship arc with each of her parents was well done.
Overall, this was a positive reading experience, and I’m looking forward to reading more of the author’s work.
FINAL NOTE: I would encourage readers to check content warnings, because there were several heavy topics addressed throughout the novel including (but not limited to): death, grief, suicide, and natural disaster.
Shelby (she/her) is a reader, writer, and actor based out of Louisville, Kentucky. When she’s not emoting on the page or stage, Shelby enjoys traveling, hiking, and in general, being a silly goose. You can find her on Bookstagram @storytimewithshellbee or Booktok @storytimewithshellbee.