I originally chose Girl Underwater for review because Julia Whelan was listed as the narrator. The plot seemed kind of iffy, since I’m usually not a fan of stories that center around wilderness survival. However, it didn’t take me long to understand that Girl Underwater was a chance I’m very glad I took.
Avery Delacorte is a nineteen-year-sophomore member of a nationally ranked University swim team. She feels most at home in the water, but swimming in college is different from her childhood dreams. Avery is no longer the captain of the team. Forced to swim events she feels no real affinity for, she feels metaphorically adrift. Otherwise though, her life is great. She makes good grades, has plenty of friends, and is dating a young man she’s pretty sure she loves.
Everything changes when Avery heads home to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving break. Her plane goes down in a Colorado lake, and Avery is one of only five survivors of the crash. Colin Shea, a teammate of Avery’s and someone she’s tried hard to avoid since the start of freshman year is another survivor. They discover three unrelated young boys are also alive. Together, these five must fight subzero temperatures with limited supplies and life threatening injuries.
The story is told in first person entirely from Avery’s point of view. This works well for narrator Julia Whelan who seems to really understand our heroine. She imbues her with the perfect amounts of strength, vulnerability, and tenderness.
Ms. Whelan is equally adept at creating believable voices for the rest of the cast. Colin is given a very authentic-sounding south Boston accent, while Avery’s boyfriend Lee speaks with a hint of Hawaii in his voice. The three young boys, ranging in age from two to six, sound appropriately childlike, without making Ms. Whelan sound ridiculous. Many narrators do not portray children well, but Ms. Whelan rose admirably to the task.
Avery is a slightly unreliable narrator, which sometimes makes it difficult to understand her motivations. She and Colin have had a strained relationship after he challenges her to be her own person, rather than simply bowing to the wishes of her coach. For some reason I couldn’t completely wrap my head around, Avery took this badly, hence her equally mystifying need to avoid Colin at all costs. There are other things I can’t go into for fear of spoilers, but it’s safe to say that, while I liked Avery quite a bit, I couldn’t always sympathize with her.
The story switches back and forth between Avery’s time in the Rocky Mountains and the time following her rescue. I did not find these switches distracting or difficult to understand. In fact, they helped keep me invested in the story, as I was always waiting to see what would happen next in both story lines.
It’s important to note that this is not necessarily a romance novel. If asked, I would classify it as a New Adult novel with romantic elements. The focus rests more heavily on Avery coming to terms with herself and her experiences than on the feelings she has for Colin. True, she does eventually claim her HEA, but, in this listener’s opinion, that was more of a bonus than anything else.
Narration: A and Book Content: B Unabridged. Length 8 hours 38 minutes