Summary and book reviews of Dark Water by Laura McNeal

Dark Water

by Laura McNeal

Dark Water by Laura McNeal X
Dark Water by Laura McNeal
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2010, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2011, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Ellis Smith
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About this Book

Book Summary

The catastrophic wildfires that struck Southern California in 2007 act as the backdrop for this compelling story full of peril, desperation, and love.

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.

Laura McNeal has crafted a beautiful and haunting novel full of peril, desperation, and love.

One

You wouldn't have noticed me before the fire unless you saw that my eyes, like a pair of socks chosen in the dark, don't match. One is blue and the other's brown, a genetic trait called heterochromia that I share with white cats, Catahoula hog dogs, and water buffaloes. My uncle Hoyt used to tell me, when I was little, that it meant I could see fairies and peaceful ghosts.

Then I met Amiel, and for six months it seemed true what he whispered in his damaged voice: Tú eres de dos mundos.

He was wrong, of course. You can only belong to one world at a time.

Now that he's gone, I try to see things when I'm alone. I put one hand over my blue eye, and I look south. With my brown eye I can see all the way to Mexico. I fly over freeways and tile roofs and malls and swimming pools. I cross the Sierra de Juárez Mountains and the Sea of Cortés to the place where Amiel was born, and I find the turquoise house with a red door. There are three chairs on the covered ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Dark Water's short chapters well serve the novel's multiple storylines. ... Pearl's life is compartmentalized. The novel's short chapters parallel that disjointedness beautifully and make the disparate plot points easy to follow.

In the end, Dark Water really is like Pearl. It is full of heart, and it is full of brains too. Because of this, it touches the reader's heart and asks the reader to think, too. It is complicated, doesn't offer easy answers, and its vital, true-life issues beg to be discussed...continued

Full Review (485 words).

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(Reviewed by Tamara Ellis Smith).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post
Although Amiel sometimes seems less a fully realized character than a projection of Pearl's loneliness and need, the particular strength of this haunting story is Pearl's motivation to tell it. She seeks not to excuse but to understand and take responsibility for her actions.

School Library Journal
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.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Notable for well-drawn characters, an engaging plot and, especially, hauntingly beautiful language, this is an outstanding book. Ages 12+.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Heterochromia

Pearl has one brown eye and one blue eye. Amiel says to her that this means "tu eres de dos mundos. You are of two worlds." Pearl's uncle says it means that she can see fairies and peaceful ghosts.

eyes


But what is it exactly?

Heterochromia simply means a difference in coloration and is caused by a relative excess or lack of melanin. The term is sometimes used to describe distinct differences in hair or skin color, but most commonly refers to the coloration of the iris.

Complete heterochromia is when the iris is a different color entirely. Partial heterochromia is, as it sounds, when only a part of the eye is different. Heterochromia is most often an inherited condition, but it can also be the result of mosaicism (...

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