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Dark Water Hardcover – September 14, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up–The catastrophic wildfires that ravaged Southern California in 2007 serve as the backdrop for this compelling story of a forbidden romance with tragic consequences. In the inland farming community of Fallbrook, 15-year-old Pearl tells her story through a leisurely voice. She deals with her parents' divorce; her cousin's anger at his father's suspected adultery; and, most significantly, her undeniable attraction to the alluring undocumented Mexican migrant worker Amiel, whose damaged vocal chords limit his speech but not his communication. Disaster is referred to throughout the narrative, filling readers with a sense of foreboding as Pearl's persistence overcomes Amiel's trepidation and the two draw together in an intense secret affair. All of this leads to a heart-pounding final act when the wildfire breaks out and Pearl must choose between family and romance, safety and uncertainty. The ramifications of the ill-fated decisions made by both Pearl and Amiel will surely spark strong discussion among readers. Both the plot and setting are grounded in rich, realistic detail; the author's love for the town of Fallbrook shines vividly through lyrical descriptions of avocado groves and orange blossoms. While Amiel remains a somewhat mysterious figure, Pearl's relationships with her family and friends are fully realized through her nostalgic recollections of simpler times. Drawn in by the appeal of clandestine love and looming disaster, teens will also be rewarded with much thought-provoking substance in this novel's complex characters and hauntingly ambiguous ending.Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review

"This debut solo effort after several collaborations with husband Tom McNeal (The Decoding of Lana Morris, 2007, etc.) stands out in the crowded coming-of-age field. The affecting narrative springs believably from the first-person thoughts of Pearl DeWitt as she recalls her 15th summer, when, entranced by a nearly mute, illegal Mexican migrant worker, the beautiful and gifted teenage Amiel, Pearl makes choices that lead to tragedy. Evocative language electrifies the scenes between the pair, as they develop a relationship both complicated and deepened by their limited verbal communication. Her warnings to readers of impending disaster amplify rather than diminish the impact of the misguided, wrenching decisions she makes when a raging wildfire sweeps through their rural California community. Besides her poignant relationship with Amiel, Pearl navigates her father’s recent abandonment of her and her mother and her complicated relationship with her cousin Robby as he blunderingly deals with his father’s apparent infidelity. Notable for well-drawn characters, an engaging plot and, especially, hauntingly beautiful language, this is an outstanding book."
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Kirkus Reviews, starred review
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 0970 (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375849734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375849732
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,348,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By sanoe.net VINE VOICE on September 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I picked up Laura McNeal's Dark Water because of the setting: Fallbrook, California.

Fallbrook was one of those magical places of my childhood. A place where my memories are faded yet still triggers feelings of happiness.

As such, I got the book and I'm pleased that I did so.

Pearl DeWitt is a 15 year old whose father has left her and her mother. Both of them are reeling in different ways. They've gone to live on her mother's brother's avocado ranch. It is clear that Pearl admires her Uncle Hoyt. He employs migrant workers to pick the avocado trees. From Pearl's description of him, the reader knows that her Uncle Hoyt is a good man.

Now 15 is a transition age and Pearl is right in the middle of that transition. Her best friend has become some guy's girlfriend while she's still being ignored by most boys. She has a normal relationship with her mother but given how her father exited their lives, it is under stress.

Into her life comes a boy who is different from her in ways that makes her push the boundaries that surround her.

Amiel is a migrant worker. He's not a big talker but he has a way about him. Enough that Hoyt picks him up to work.

Pearl becomes intrigued by him and eventually, they form a friendship.

It isn't hard to see where this is going. He's 17, she's 15. Both are in need of a friend and perhaps a little more.

In this day and age, one would think that a relationship between Pearl and Amiel would be a 'Romeo & Juliet' scenario but McNeal reminds the reader of why it is.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just don't get it, why is it necessary to sell every YA book as some romance story, regardless of its actual content?

Just take a look at "Dark Water's" publisher provided description: "Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California... 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."

Seriously, doesn't it sound like another "Perfect Chemistry" white girl/brown boy, wrong-side-of-the-track type of story which "Dark Water" absolutely is not?

Instead, this is a beautifully written, quality literary YA fiction about one girl's confusing summer when she has to deal with many difficult things - her father's infidelity, her mother's unraveling and her cousin's obsessive revenge plans. Yes, there is Amiel, but is it romance between them or a misguided infatuation that ends up costing Pearl way too much?

A combination of flawless writing, descriptive and atmospheric without being overwrought and over-ornamented by flowery adjectives and laughable similes, complex relationships and realistic characters, is what makes this novel worthy of its National Book Award acclaim, and definitely not the "forbidden romance" aspect of it.

If you, like me, are a fan of Sara Zarr's quiet, introspective novels rather than Simone Elkeles's get-in-her-pants-on-a-dare/sex-in-the-garage romances, "Dark Water" is a book for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dark Water is a wonderful book for fans of We Were Liars, Even In Paradise, and any of Melina Marchetta's novels. It is a short,emotional story tale of personal growth and yes- tragedy.

"The breeze that carried you off is lifting me Gently;
and I shall follow those who loved me in my exile."- Victor Hugo

Reading this book again after two years was an interesting experience. I found myself appreciating McNeal's vivd imagery and the complex, interesting characters: our main character lives on a farm in FallBrooke, where it is sunny most of the year with her enigmatic french aunt, her kind uncle, genius cousin, and divorced mother. McNeal also did a great job preserving the narrators age in her writing.....Pearl DeWitt sounded like Pear DeWittt. I really appreciated that.

“Tu' eres de dos mundos."
He was wrong, of course. You can only belong to one world at a time.”

The plot, if it in fact does "fail"- it fails because McNeal only let's minimal amount of darkness in. Much like in Even In Paradise, most Dark Water's characters get off easy. It's not realistic. However, I am willing to let this slide because it is such a beautiful story
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most intense and intelligent young adult novels I've ever read. The "dark" in the title foreshadows the darkness and loss that brackets the story: the novel is both subtler and riskier than I'd expected; its strange, complicated themes and recurring images (from raising silkworms to adultery, race relations, cultural and class divisions, passion, and guilt) are woven so deftly and beautifully throughout. I couldn't put the book down, my heart was in my throat, and I found myself underlining something on every page. This author has a way with simile that's simply astonishing, and a deep, abiding sense of what it feels like to be a teenaged girl. Just lovely.
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