Cover image for Girl underwater
Title:
Girl underwater
Author:
Kells, Claire, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Dutton, [2015]
Physical Description:
291 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
A "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"--Amazon.com.

Avery Delacorte, a sophomore on her university's nationally ranked team, struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. 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 her teammate, Colin Shea. 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 have imagined.
General Note:
"A novel"--Jacket.
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780525954934
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

Claire Kells was born and raised outside Philadelphia. She received a degree in English from Princeton University and a medical degree from the University of California. Currently in residency, she lives and works in the Bay Area. This is her first novel.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Avery and Colin, who are on the same college swim team, are on a flight home when the plane crashes into a lake in the Rockies. Together with three small boys, they are the only survivors and immediately bond together as they cling to life in the wilderness. Those days on their own test Colin and Avery and bring them close, but after their rescue, Avery must come to terms with her behavior and struggle to reconnect with her boyfriend, Lee. The action switches between their time scratching by for survival and Avery's beleaguered recovery. As a former competitive swimmer and the recipient of a medical degree, first-novelist Kells amply demonstrates her technical knowledge, lending realism to the story. The book is pervaded by sadness as Avery tries to find her way after the crash changed everything. The somber atmosphere means this is a love triangle with very little spice and lots of angst, particularly on Avery's part. The story ably demonstrates that survival is not just physical, but also mental and emotional.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2015 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Kells writes with a spare, sure hand in her debut novel about a college sophomore swimmer who survives a plane crash in the Rockies along with a teammate and three young boys. First-person narrator Avery Delacorte reveals her story in parallel timelines. The first one details the crash and its harrowing aftermath in an unforgiving wilderness, where Avery is joined by teammate Colin Shea and the three boys, ages three through six. The other follows her mental recovery from the crash, hindered by the emotional wall she erects between herself and the experience. Avery's family, boyfriend, and therapists try to help, but she refuses to accept a PTSD diagnosis. She disassociates herself from the other survivors, going so far as to pretend she went it alone in the wild, had nothing to do with helping to rescue the youngsters, and did not suture Colin's wounds with dental floss. It's only when she forces herself to reconnect with her fellow survivors that she begins to regain control of her life. The author's skill with character reveals itself best with Colin, whose quiet care has always unnerved Avery. Kells's visceral story is quite memorable and eminently readable. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

The plane on which collegiate swimmer Avery Delacorte and several teammates are traveling home for Thanksgiving crashes into a glacial lake in the Rocky Mountains. With only minutes to escape the sinking plane, she and teammate Colin rescue three small boys and make it to shore. This is only the first step toward survival. They need shelter, dry clothing, and food. Injury, wild winter weather, and an angry bear figure in their difficulties. Their harrowing five-day ordeal in the wilderness is told in flashbacks mingled, with Avery's struggle to cope in real time with PTSD. Kells's first novel, beautifully read here by Julia Whelan, captures the life-changing power of disaster and the human will to survive and to heal. Her characters are complex and diverse. VERDICT Recommended for all fiction collections. ["An absorbing tale that will grip anyone who enjoys survival stories or psychological dramas": LJ 11/15/14 starred review of the Dutton hc.]-Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island, Providence © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

Avery is the youngest in a family of athletes from Boston. She's a sophomore at Stanford when the plane she's taking home from school crashes in the Rocky Mountains. She is one of the only survivors, along with Colin (a teammate) and three young boys. They spend five days huddled in the wilderness, facing severe cold, snow storms, and a bear attack. Both Avery and Colin are uniquely qualified to survive-Avery's father is an ER doctor who taught her the basics, even taking her along to the ER on Saturdays to work by his side as she was growing up. Colin has a preternatural calm and optimism, as well as strength and a way with kids. But something happens on the fifth day that makes Avery so ashamed she cannot visit the boys or Colin after their rescue. She even lies to the media. Kells's choice to alternate chapters between the event and its aftermath effectively ramps up the suspense concerning the details of the tragedy and Avery's subsequent struggle with PTSD. Avery is a strong, if flawed, character, and teens will love her deeply emotional, at times angsty, story. There is a strong bond between Colin and Avery that brings a will-they or won't-they element to their relationship. Colin is a truly good person, and readers looking for a humble hero will swoon. VERDICT With the pacing of a thriller and the heart of a romance, the novel steers readers through one young woman's survival of a devastating tragedy.-Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof*** Copyright © 2015 Claire Kells 1 I've always loved the water. My earliest memory is opening my eyes in my neighbor's pool and seeing the world through this different state of being. It shocked no one when I begged for swim lessons at the age of three--far younger than my older, more adventuresome brothers. When my mother saw me flying off the high dive the summer before kindergarten, she was horrified but not surprised. She wanted to ban me from the pool for a week, but my dad had a different idea: put her on the swim team. After the crash, my instincts changed. Even the smallest children know not to breathe underwater, but somehow, my mind railed against everything I'd ever known. I thought it was permanent. I thought fear was forever. 2 The security line proceeds in its usual torturous fashion: in stops and starts, other people's luggage tumbling at my feet. After thirty minutes of halfhearted apologies, one of the TSA checkers waves me over. He holds up my Massachusetts license and smirks. "You sure this is you?" "Yep." I force a smile. That picture isn't my proudest moment: blond hair wild and windblown, eyes bloodshot, freckled skin paler than a baby's butt. It was February, the week before midterms. Never get your driver's license issued in February. "You're a brunette now." "Yep." Precious seconds tick by. "Okay," he says, handing it over. "You pass." I take my license and head for the closest lane. A family of six squeezes in right in front of me, juggling Uggs and Disney backpacks and a whole assembly of umbrellas. A toddler empties his pockets and fifty pennies scatter on the floor. I scoop them up while his parents chase down their other kids. Five interminable minutes later, I'm through the X-ray machine, awaiting the verdict with my shoes off, arms at my sides. "Clear," the woman says, with the amount of enthusiasm one would expect from someone who's said it a thousand times today. The crowds don't exactly part for me as I run for the gate, but I've gotten good at this. Some people run clumsily: handbags flying, suitcases bobbing behind them on carpeted floors. The business-class folks walk with a practiced, efficient grace. I'm somewhere in between: a little stressed but not crazed. Forget dinner, though. I hurry past the bars and fro-yo stands with a lurch in my stomach. The thing is, I could have avoided all this; I could have been on time, relaxed, enjoying a decent dinner or at least some packaged sushi before my flight. Phil Markey offered me a ride to the airport after practice this morning, which came as a shock because senior guys don't often talk to sophomore girls--especially sophomore girls who don't exactly dominate in the pool. I didn't wonder about it too much, though. A ride with the co‑captain ? I said yes. My excitement dimmed when Phil pulled up to my dorm with Colin Shea in the front seat. Colin Shea: serious and quiet and abundantly talented. Scarily talented. I'd avoided him since the first day of freshman year, and the thought of trying to explain why to Phil . . . So I bailed. My excuse didn't even make sense--something about carsickness and country music. Phil didn't care, but Colin noticed. He always notices. As if on cue, Colin steps out of line at Starbucks just as I'm rounding the corner. He's paying for a coffee--a venti, in fact. Who buys coffee right before a red‑eye ? Not just that, but a supersized coffee. He doesn't even bother with cream and sugar. He thanks the exhausted barista, stuffs the tip jar while she isn't looking, and jogs up to the gate. He's clearly the last one to board. Well, second to last. Why did he wait so long to board ? I hope to God he wasn't waiting for me to show up. Phil knew we were all booked for the same flight to Boston, and Colin has a strange sense of responsibility about him. He probably thinks I'm late because of him. Which is true, but he will never know that. I'll give it a minute and board right before they close the doors. Hopefully he's sitting way in the back somewhere. Some clever finagling scored me a seat in the emergency exit row, and I'm betting Colin just went for the cheapest option. The gate agent responds to him the same way the barista did: stunned by his size and slick bald head, softened by his smile. She scans his boarding pass, hands it back to him, and even manages a sincere " Have a nice flight ." When the final boarding announcement sounds overhead, I make my move. The terminal feels more subdued now, almost quiet. Tomorrow, the day before Thanksgiving, the chaos will bloom all over again. A janitor empties huge recycling bins. Two Asian women scrub the countertops of a Panda Express. A bearded man in a tweed jacket sits in one of those massage chairs with his cell phone to his ear, rubbing his temples as the clock creeps toward midnight. The gate agent offers me an empty customer-service grin, the kind that isn't meant to be returned. "Have a nice flight," she says. She's tired; I'm tired. I've averted disaster with Colin Shea and now I just want to get there . As I round the corner, the cabin door gapes at me. A flight attendant mediates the transition from ramp to plane, where she greets me with a chipper "Welcome!" She doesn't seem perturbed that I've boarded precariously late, but the first-class passengers are. They wring out their hot towels and glare at me like I peed in the complimentary champagne. I rush past those coveted rows and enter the cramped, dingy quarters known as coach. The scene is familiar: tired parents and wailing babies, old men with canes, college kids sending a few last texts. Personal space doesn't mean zip in coach. People are leaning on each other, into each other, all over each other. Phil has one of the bulkhead seats. Lucky bastard. He winks because that's just kind of what he does, and I smile back. "You made it," he says. "Barely." "Hell, isn't it?" He gestures vaguely to the chaos brewing behind him. "A special kind," I say, trying hard to sell the joke. He nods and goes back to SportsCenter streaming on his iPad. Not the best of interactions, but not the worst, either. At least he acknowledged me. I was worried he might never talk to me again after the whole carpool fiasco. After a brief survey of unfamiliar faces, I drop my gaze and power forward. Up ahead, a generously sized man pours into the aisle. He catches me with an elbow, then a knee. No apology. It's fine. This is just how it goes on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Most people are wrestling with the overhead bins, but a few stare at me as I make my way down the center aisle. One brave-faced teenager actually swivels his head for a greedy look at my butt. Ten . . . eleven . . . twelve . . . 12F. Window seat. It's not first class, but it's not 32B, either. I stop and look up. First order of business is to identify kids in the vicinity: Infants are bad, toddlers a nightmare. There are two of the latter sitting in the rows directly behind me. The little boy in 13E sports a baseball jersey, and 14F is swimming in a pint-size Indian kurta. All four parents flash me the same tentative grin, as if a positive attitude might just be the key to a seamless, whine-free flight. Another boy, maybe six or seven, sits in row 15, but he's all tuned in to his dad's electronics. This is a good sign. I just hope the younger boys skipped their naps today so they sleep through the flight. The only other person in my row is a fortyish guy in an ill-fitting suit. He's on his cell phone, ordering some poor intern to finalize the paperwork before the holiday. The man looks like he hasn't cracked a smile since the eighties. I'm glad we're together, though. He doesn't seem like the chatty type. I maneuver past his legs and settle into my coveted window seat. The shade is already up, revealing the nighttime extravagance of SFO and the Oakland skyline in the distance. Yellow lights pepper the hills to the east, disappearing in the hazy divide between sky and headlands. To the west, San Francisco sits in a steepening wall of fog. "Excuse me." The flight attendant leans into my row, pursing her lips with practiced professionalism. But my gaze doesn't linger on her for very long; it shifts to the six-foot-four, broad-shouldered kid next to her. Colin. I swallow hard. "Yeah?" "This gentleman will be joining you in the emergency exit row." The next seat over, Cheap Suit groans. Colin murmurs a thank-you to the flight attendant and shifts awkwardly into the dreaded middle seat. His legs are long and cumbersome, and he probably used them to barter for a seat in the roomier section. A wave of irritation surges through me. He definitely planned this--saw me walk down the aisle and take my seat, then concocted an excuse about his legs being too long for 32B or wherever he's supposed to be. As Colin gets settled in, I make a point of rummaging through my bag. Laptop, e-reader, pens, a ripped swim cap. Some coins and other things I can't identify just by touch. I continue searching. Laptop. Perfect. I put my earbuds in and power it up, but the battery's dead. How did that happen ? I go for my phone instead. There's only one song stored on the hard drive, and it's a sampler from the phone company, but it will have to do. So far, so good. Colin straightens his long legs and pulls his elbows in toward his body. For a tall person, he occupies amazingly little space. Most people his size park their elbows on the armrests the second they sit down, obliterating any sense of personal space. A good number of them proceed to nod off and snore or, worse, end up on my shoulder. At least Colin has some awareness of his surroundings. That or he's trying too hard. He skims his massive hand over his bald head as he reaches for a dog-eared copy of Great Expectations . Although I'm doing my best to look elsewhere, I can't help but notice the handwritten plea to return the book if found, with Colin's name and Dorchester address scrawled on the inside cover. I resist the sudden, inexplicable urge to ask him about this: You're from Dorchester ? When we met over a year ago, he told me he was from Boston. Which isn't exactly a lie, but Boston makes you think country clubs and old money; Dorchester means you probably learned to swim in a community pool behind a chain-link fence. I suppose the details don't really matter. Best to act uninterested, to close my eyes and will the hours to pass. Because they will, and when we land, we'll go our separate ways. The lights dim, the tires lurch, and the plane rumbles backward. The grump in the suit barks a final set of commands into his cell phone, while the gentleman in front of me is already snoring. It sounds like his throat is wrestling with his vocal cords, a real battle to the death. I blast the sample music. Slowly, peacefully, the sounds of air travel fade to a muffled drone. I close my eyes. In six hours, I'll be there. I'll be home. * A gray shore unfolds before me, cast under shadowy gray skies. The scene stretches on forever, sand and sky, two hulking ghosts in a lonesome embrace. The sea laps the shore, oblivious. It washes over my toes, my ankles, my knees. And then it recedes. A wave is cresting in the distance--black, shapeless, inevitable. Although my mind processes the threat, my body refuses to respond. Muscles won't contract. Lungs refuse to inflate. Paralyzed, I stare at the wall of water as it swells before me, gathering strength before swallowing me whole-- The wave is not water but sound: human sounds. Crying, screaming. The distant echo of people's voices pitched with panic. Gasping, I snap my eyes open and find that I'm not alone on some vast gray shore. I'm in my seat. Plastic tubes dangle from the ceiling. Serving trays rattle in place. The cabin pulses with light, though the sky beyond my window is a grim, starless black. The man next to Colin has dropped something, and he's on all fours, crawling toward the front. The plane dips in that direction, pitching all of us forward, like an unbalanced seesaw. I blink a few times, focusing the images, praying they simply disappear--but the sound makes it real. God, the sound . . . I cover my ears, only to feel the resistance of earbuds. The cord has no weight on the end of it, and in some distant corner of my mind, I consider the consequences of a lost cell phone. Then the plane goes into a dive, and my attention veers to the window. The shade is still open, providing a pristine view of a great, mocking nothingness. We could be at the bottom of the sea or a million miles out in space--it's impossible to tell. I press my forehead to the glass, straining for a view of something. Anything. Lights, people, houses, cars. Or maybe a runway beckoning us to land. But there is nothing out there. I've never seen darkness so absolute. We could be anywhere; we could be nowhere. Oxygen masks bounce on seats like coiled springs. Someone's leopard-print luggage lands in the doorway between first class and coach. Lights are flickering. Alarms blaring. The whoosh of air threatens to burst my eardrums, even with my earbuds in. I pull them out to face the onslaught of what's happening. It occurs to me then, finally, that we're going down. There are other people sharing this nightmare, two hundred of them, seeing the same horrors and experiencing the same despair and hearing the same staccato beat of air and engines. Our paths were supposed to diverge again in Boston, but they didn't. We're here. We're ending. Together. I don't know these people. I don't love them or care about them or even know their names. Would it be easier if I did? Or would we cry even harder, holding on to the ones we love? The plane jerks, and my neck snaps back against the seat. A sharp pain rockets through my chest, then fades. I feel a hand on my arm: warm, smooth, steady. And in that moment, everything goes quiet. Calm. "Are you okay?" Colin . His voice is smoother than I remember, and it takes me a moment to realize why: The uncertainty is gone. The shyness, too. The facade he uses to navigate our stilted interactions has been stripped away, replaced by a different, stronger, truer person. In that moment, a single question floats to the front of my mind: Why ? Why is Colin Shea here with me now when he should have been sitting somewhere else? Why isn't he trying to save himself, as so many others are doing? Why isn't he calling his mom or dad or someone else he actually cares about? Why does it suddenly feel like I've known him all my life ? My vision clears. I can see his eyes very clearly now: a pulsing, turbulent blue, the color of the sky just before dawn. Dark, but somehow comforting. "I'm okay," I say. He puts the armrest up and grasps my hand, and the panic tickling the back of my throat sinks back down. "I don't want to die." I say it more to myself than him, but he must hear me because he squeezes my hand even harder. "You won't." He tightens our seat belts and hands me a pillow that he must have salvaged from the now-empty seat next to him. "This isn't mine--" "I know," Colin says. "Just try and support your neck." The screams rise and fall with the dip of the plane; somewhere, a door slams against something else, and the drink cart tumbles down the aisle. Through all of this, Colin doesn't just keep his cool; he creates it. The hysteria surrounding us doesn't touch him. He thinks we actually have a chance . "Do you have a phone?" I start ransacking the seat-back pocket, tossing out magazines and life jacket instructions. My hands are shaking and everything looks blurred. "We should try to call someone--" "We're not going to die." He positions the pillow under my neck and places a strong, steady hand in the groove between my shoulder blades. It's a small gesture, but significant in a world that feels like it's shrinking. He's so warm . So steady, too, like he was built for this. Built to be here, in this moment, for reasons I will never understand. Together, we crouch down as much as our bodies and space will allow. Time stalls, then stands still. Oxygen masks skitter over my back like confused birds. Screams turn to sobs. The plane heaves up, down, sideways. I desperately want to look out the window, to get my bearings. To see one last thing--a star, a house, or maybe just the sky--before I die. Before everything ceases to be. Instead, I stare at my shoes. A weathered pair of old Nikes, chlorine-bleached from all those hours on the pool deck. One of the laces is untied, but I can't tie them with my arms locked around my legs. So I just sit there, gazing at the faded Nike swoosh, watching my tears stain the industrial blue carpet. What an awful thing to see right before you die. Soda stains, dust, a dead spider. But I'm too afraid to look at anything else. I'm afraid to even move until Colin says my name and that awful terror recedes again. We're only six inches apart, our faces so close I can taste the whisper of peppermint on his breath. He must've brushed his teeth after that coffee, which I know is a weird thing to think right now, but it streaks across my mind anyway, a grain of comfort in the chaos. I'm glad he's here--someone familiar, if only in the loosest sense of the word. He must be thinking about his actual family: his parents, his siblings if he has any. The people who raised him, their alarms set for five o'clock on Wednesday morning, waiting for him to come home. The question comes to my lips, unbidden. "Won't you miss your family?" He looks at me for a long moment. A pained expression colors his face, then fades. "We're going to make it, Avery." Something about the way he says my name makes me forget the hurtling luggage and blinking lights, even as the plane lurches forward, then dips with a violent shudder. A renewed chorus of screaming goes up. Something hits the ceiling, then drops, limply, onto the floor. I catch a glimpse of someone's head and close my eyes hard enough to hurt. An announcement rolls over the speakers, as if it even means anything anymore: "This is your captain. Brace for impact." This time the view out the window shows dark pines flitting past us like an accelerated movie reel. A lake glistens in the distance, reflecting the pale light of the moon. This isn't so bad, I think. To see something so magnificent, so natural, right before we die. I always loved the water: lakes, oceans, pools. I always felt at home there. Then, I let it all go, finding Colin's gaze instead. It's only us now, our paths converging in a spiraling nowhere. As I try to process what it means to be with this familiar stranger, a strange serenity floats over me. It's as if all the thousands of horrible moments before this one have distilled themselves into something meaningful, something almost like fate. "You have the bluest eyes," I say. A lone tear rolls down his cheek, the kind that comes without warning or expectation. I want to touch it. I want to make things right again. Then, a roar. It sounds like the fingers of God scraping the belly of the plane, a gritty screech that makes my blood hum. "Don't be afraid," he breathes. And then we hit. Excerpted from Girl Underwater by Claire Kells All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.