Author: Callie Kingston
Publisher: Carolwood Press
Pages: Paperback; 230
Release Date: February 17, 2012
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Language
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who are comfortable with characters who face difficult situations.
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Marissa can’t wait to leave behind her mom and the traumatic life they shared. With Drake, she has it all figured out--until she discovers his betrayal. She flees to a desolate beach on the wild Oregon coast hoping to escape her pain where, overcome with exhaustion, she dozes off beside a log. When the first icy waves strike her, it is too late: a rogue wave drags her out to sea.
Somehow, she survives. Perhaps that gorgeous merman she dreams of each night rescued her? Determined to discover the truth, her obsession deepens until she again risks her life in the unyielding sea. Will the creature Marissa seeks save her? Will she be lost forever in the eddies of her mind, or will Jim, her new boyfriend, keep her from falling into the abyss?
In Undertow, Callie Kingston paints the reader a portrait of a troubled young woman who is quietly descending into the abyss. I honestly didn't realize from the synopsis that Marissa was suffering from a psychotic break. When the story begins it seems like the merman is real, and a love story will ensue. However, very soon after, the reader sees how manic Marissa really is. It's almost like two stories cobbled together into one. I admit that because I didn't know Marissa's past at first, I really didn't like her for quite a while. I think I would have felt differently if I had known earlier on.
Still, the break that Marissa suffers is done well. It blends so seamlessly into the overall story that, if like me you didn't realize it was there, it's tough to see at first. In a matter of chapters Marissa goes from a person who has a normal, somewhat happy life, to one who can't seem to tell fantasy from reality. She draws further and further away from other people. She doesn't seem to care what she looks like or how she acts. It's scary, but I think believable. The other thing that I enjoyed was how Kingston leaves the ending kind of open for interpretation. I won't spoil, but it fascinated me.
I feel the need to also mention how well the other characters in this story are done. Marissa's mom is shown as a woman who is constantly drinking and misplaces her anger on her daughter. Marissa's father is a man who doesn't know how to communicate with his daughter, and is holding on to things from the past that he just can't let go. Even Marissa's friend Kelly has dark secrets of her own. With all these people surrounding her it's not hard to see how she got to this point. The one saving grace is Jim, whom I loved! He is definitely just what Marissa needed.
I went into Undertow thinking that I was going to be reading a story about a young girl and a merman. Instead, what I discovered between the pages was an intriguing story about a girl's psychotic breakdown and the slow, difficult healing process afterwards. Although it wasn't quite was I was expecting, I'll fully admit that this was a story that kept me reading. I'm happy to say that it was well worth my time.
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.