Summary and book reviews of My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo

My Heart Underwater

by Laurel Fantauzzo

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo X
My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Oct 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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About this Book

Book Summary

Fans of Adib Khorram and Randy Ribay will love this coming-of-age debut about a Filipina American teen drowning under pressure and learning to trust her heart.

Corazon Tagubio is an outcast at the Catholic school she attends on scholarship. Her crush on her teacher, Ms. Holden, doesn't help. At home, Cory worries that less-than-perfect grades aren't good enough for her parents, who already work overtime to support her distant half-brother in the Philippines.

After an accident leaves her dad comatose, Cory feels like Ms. Holden is the only person who really understands her. But when a crush turns into something more and the secret gets out, Cory is sent to her relatives in Manila. She's not prepared to face strangers in an unfamiliar place, but she discovers how the country that shaped her past might also redefine her future.

This #ownvoices novel takes readers on a journey across the world as Cory comes to understand her family, her relationships, and ultimately, herself.

Part One
Southern California

Thursday, February 5, 2009
Feast of Saint Agatha

The Virgin Mary is giving me the stink eye again. I can feel her watching me as I cross through the courtyard to AP European History. Her open stone hands struggle to make a wagging finger. She wants to chisel a message into me, I know: Don't think about her! Don't you dare! Fight your thoughts! Fight your body! Think of me at your age! Think of how brave and willing I was! Think of the heaviness I bore under my skin! You're not being asked to carry something as huge as the destiny of the Christ child, are you? No! Think of your family duty, like I thought of mine!


I think of you, Mary. I think of my family.


But I also think of Ms. Holden.


I never knew what the word "crush" actually meant—thought it was a stupid, unrealistic word, actually, until January this year, on her first day of school as our long-term substitute, and she wrote her name on the classroom whiteboard for the first time.

When I ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In Manila, Cory meets her mother's entitled family and the domestic workers who serve them, her much less wealthy father's fallen-from-grace brother, and most importantly, Jun and his friends. Each of these characters widens Cory's perspective on what is important in life, and what real love looks like. The novel is full of rich fragments of life in Manila, from Jollibee restaurant chain takeout to brief conversations in Tagalog. The meanings of these exchanges are usually understandable in context, but a glossary (not present in the digital version reviewed here) would have been welcome...continued

Full Review Members Only (545 words).

(Reviewed by Catherine M Andronik).

Media Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Smoothly woven and intriguing glimpses of Filipino culture, language, and economy pop up throughout this #ownvoices novel.

School Library Journal (starred review)
The emotional connection to a homeland, language, and family is demonstrated by the use of Tagalog in dialogue, and lush imagery of bustling cities and mountainous terrain. The book also incorporates political history effortlessly ... Built on character and relationships, Fantauzzo's young adult debut is not to be missed.

Booklist
This soulful #OwnVoices story explores how love for family and tradition can conflict with personal dignity.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Tagalog and Taglish are interlaced throughout, adding an atmospheric texture that refreshingly lends rarely depicted insights into authentic Filipino humor, conflict, and expressions of love. A (home)coming out story that rides a deep undercurrent of love.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This emotionally powerful YA debut sensitively portrays the tension between Cory's American upbringing and attempts to stay true to her cultural roots. A first-person narrative peppered with largely untranslated Tagalog and Taglish adds a refreshing authenticity to Fantauzzo's richly textured world.

Author Blurb Marjorie Liu, New York Times bestselling author
My Heart Underwater is a lovely, magnificent wonder of a novel that will leave you with the rarest of tender heartaches: life-affirming, life-inspiring, life-loving; a heartache of joy and becoming. You won't walk freely, or willingly, from these pages.

Author Blurb Gina Apostol, author of Gun Dealers' Daughter, PEN/Open Book Award winner
Beautifully unsettling and deeply satisfying, My Heart Underwater should be read by all—and it's a gift to any community, not just the YA community, that such a heartfelt, literary novel is now in our hands.

Author Blurb Grace Talusan, author of The Body Papers, winner of the Restless Books Prize
A wise, complex exploration of a young person on the cusp of adulthood as she navigates the in-between: being Filipinx in America and American in the Philippines. Readers who yearn for stories closer to the nuances, contradictions, and messiness of real life will love Cory and root for her.

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Beyond the Book

Books by Filipino Authors for Young Readers

Melissa de la Cruz author photoNot that long ago, it would have been difficult to find many young adult or middle-grade novels featuring a Filipino or Filipino-American protagonist, let alone Filipino settings and customs as we see in My Heart Underwater. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. 

In 2005, Melissa de la Cruz, best known for her Descendants, Alex and Eliza, and Blue Bloods series, published her YA novel Fresh Off the Boat, which follows a 14-year-old Filipina immigrant to the United States as she attempts to navigate an unfamiliar culture. In 2017, de la Cruz covered similar ground in Something in Between, which features a Filipina-American teenager dealing with the complex reality of being undocumented.

Laurel Flores Fantuazzo's My Heart ...

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