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Young Adult Book Review: Surfacing

April 9, 2013

by Judith Hayn

Baskin, R. (2013). Surfacing. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

surfacingMaggie Paris is the focus of this character-driven novel. Her older sister Leah drowned in the family condo pool when she was nine years old, and Maggie only five. A few years later, her parents in a last-ditch attempt to deal with their grief used fertility drugs to add twin boys to the family. The bickering and mistrust at home gives Maggie little solace as she struggles to find her way as a sophomore in high school. She is a talented varsity swimmer, but her athletic gift is belittled in her own mind by her unwanted ability to get others to spill their deepest and darkest secrets to her which causes those who unload on her to distance themselves. Despite this, her best friend Julie sticks with her even when Maggie develops a crush on a loathsome senior wrestler and determines to have sex with him. Her self-destruction is difficult to endure as she makes one poor choice after another; these include luring a gentlemanly classmate in as her boyfriend so she can gain skills to impress her obsession.

This is a tale of trauma and what it does to one family and one girl’s spirit. Told in flashbacks from the day of the drowning and interspersed with Leah’s commentary, essential truths about relationships and secrets emerge. The book would be a terrific choice for teen girl book clubs as Maggie learns just how many forms that guilt and grief can take.

Dr. Judith A. Hayn is an associate professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

This article is part of a series from the Special Interest Group Network on Adolescent Literature (SIGNAL).

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