Under water by Marisa Reichardt

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Macmillan 2016. ISBN 9781509818006
(Age: Teens) Highly recommended. Themes: Post-traumatic stress, School shootings, Psychology, Family breakdown, love. Living in a small apartment with her mother and little brother, Morgan was like any other Californian 17 year old, keen on swimming, boys and hanging out at the beach with a few close friends. However a mass shooting at her school six months before has left her uninjured but traumatised and she is now unable to leave her apartment. Life has been tough for the family, her father, a soldier, served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and post-traumatic stress has led him to seek solace in alcohol with resulting violent outbursts. Morgan's mother left him for the sake of the family's safety and she now works hard as a single mother to make ends meet. Morgan knows she is further burdening her mother but is powerless to control her fear of leaving the apartment and she carries a secret guilt that she has told nobody. Brenda, a psychologist, comes to the apartment to help Morgan deal with the trauma. Her comparison with how a child learns to do things helps Morgan realise that she needs to take baby steps to work though her problems. She sets herself the goal of attending little brother Ben's pantomime performance and when surfer Evan moves in next door and persists in getting to know her, Morgan has the incentives she needs to face her fears and work through the trauma.
This first novel is beautifully crafted, the characters live in a real world with familiar problems and the dialogue is well handled. Fundamentals of guilt and forgiveness are attractively wrapped in a love story with a brave protagonist caught up in life events that allow her to discover her inner strength. Year 10 girls will love this book and either fall in love with the boyfriend or decide on a career as a psychologist.
Sue Speck