Audiobook Review: Girl Underwater by Claire Kells

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: Girl Underwater by Claire KellsGirl Underwater by Claire Kells
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Length: 8 hrs, 38 mins
Published by Penguin Audio on March 31, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible

An adventurous debut novel that cross cuts between a competitive college swimmer’s harrowing days in the Rocky Mountains after a major airline disaster and her recovery supported by the two men who love her—only one of whom knows what really happened in the wilderness. 

Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university’s nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.

That all changes when Avery’s red-eye home for Thanksgiving makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and Colin Shea, who happens to be her teammate. Colin is also the only person in Avery’s college life who challenged her to swim her own events, to be her own person—something she refused to do. Instead she’s avoided him since the first day of freshman year. But now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could’ve imagined.

In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but.

Girl Underwater is one of those cases that proves that you can just be whelmed. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook, but, when I finished, I just sort of shrugged at my iPod. It was way more good than bad, but it didn’t get me emotionally or have the most arresting plot. It’s pleasant, as much as a book about surviving a plane crash can be. Girl Underwater was an enjoyable listen, but I also think it’s a book I’ll forget about in a matter of months.

The concept of Girl Underwater is strong, dealing with both harrowing events and with the emotional trauma that follows. Avery Delacorte’s plane back home to Chicago on a college break crashes down in the Rocky Mountains. Only Avery, her teammate, Colin Shea, a couple of kids, and a pregnant woman survive the plane’s crash into a cold lake. Without many supplies (just whatever Avery can get from the lake, risking hypothermia with each swim), they have to survive until rescue can find them.

Running parallel to the timeline of surviving the crash is the time following their rescue. It’s fantastic that Avery has to actually deal with her experiences, attending counseling and facing her fears slowly over time. She’s very much changed by what she’s gone through. It takes her a while to face up to how much it has really altered her and to really start dealing with it.

While I do like both time lines, I didn’t really find alternating between the two the most effective method of delivering the story. Knowing who survives right from the beginning really undercuts the tension and the terror of the plane crash timeline. Often these switches back and forth manage to heighten both story lines, adding a mystery element and a sense of anticipation. Girl Underwater however isn’t really a mysterious book so much. The people I thought would survive did, and the romance played out as I anticipated. It wasn’t what happened but how, and the storytelling just made it less smooth going down.

Like the book, the romance was pleasant. I did kind of ship Avery with Colin, though not strongly. I actually really enjoyed Colin’s thick Boston accent, as performed by Julia Whelan. It made him stand out a bit from the rest. In my head, I recast him as a POC, so the mentions of his blond hair impacted me negatively. Despite that, I still didn’t really like the way things played out with Avery’s boyfriend. Yes, she’s been through a lot with Colin by her side, but cheating still isn’t cool. Also, the epilogue where View Spoiler » was so cheesy.

I liked Girl Underwater and by no means begrudge the time I spent on it, but I also feel like it lacked direction a little bit. It couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be a harrowing survival tale or a contemporary novel about recovery and romance. It could have done both really well, but both didn’t come off quite right for me. If it interests you, the audiobook is a most excellent choice.

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