Dark Water by Laura McNeal [Review]

Once again this year I’m judging a round in the Nerds Heart YA tournament, this time, I’m judging with Lenore, and, Dark Water by Laura McNeal is the second of the two books we have to decide between. (I talked about the first, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner on Sunday.)

Come back on Wednesday when Lenore and I will be announcing the book we are moving on to the next round!

Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it’s sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn’t pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel’s makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship—and a forbidden romance.

Then the wildfires strike. Fallbrook—the town of marigolds and palms, blood oranges and sweet limes—is threatened by the Agua Prieta fire, and a mandatory evacuation order is issued. But Pearl knows that Amiel is in the direct path of the fire, with no one to warn him, no way to get out. Slipping away from safety and her family, Pearl moves toward the dark creek, where the smoke has become air, the air smoke.

— Publisher’s Blurb

So, I was part way through reading this one when I managed to leave it in my desk at work, and with a tight deadline to finish the thing (and with little chance of doing that this week, if I left it over the weekend) I also downloaded the audiobook version, which as it turned out (maybe as you’d expect) strengthened Pearls voice for me.

There was a really good sense of place in the book (if not always geography) and I could really feel the heat, and see the avocado groves.

The book explores lots of things including migrant workers, family, and misunderstandings, but a lot of it is hinged on the romance between Pearle and Amiel, and for me I never got to know Amiel well enough to be invested in the relationship, which then called in to question some of her decisions later in the book.

So, another fairly decent if flawed read. Find out how it stacks up against A Love Story Featuring my Dead Best Friend, on Wednesday, when Lenore and I post our decision on who goes though to the next round.

Review: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Buy: Dark Water by Laura McNeal from The Book Depository

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