Publication date : October 17th, 2017
Publisher : Balzer + Bray (Harpercollins)
Genre : Young Adult | Contemporary
Page Count: 312
Synopsis : In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.
That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long. (From Goodreads)
CW: Sick parent, genetic disease, anxiety, biphobia, homophobia, ableist slur (challenged on page), drunk driving.
I’m going to be honest here… what caught my eye about this book is its cover, it’s ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. Then I checked the synopsis and added it to my TBR. Then a friend of mine couldn’t shut up about it and made me want to read it desperately. and I finally got it for my birthday and dropped everything and read it right away (or a few days later, same difference). And I gotta say, it’s an amazing book. I loved it so much. Especially the characters, and the themes, and the ending.
The writing is gripping, it’s fairly simple, down to earth and straight to the point but still emotionally loaded with some incredible quotes that take you by the feels. It’s just so… real. I loved the swearing, I loved the language switch (between English and spanish) that is seemless in the dialogue, eventhough spanish isn’t my forte, I could relate to that as someone who’s multilingual and grew up using more than one language in one sentence.
The book is very much character driven in a sense where it’s all about characters exploring their identities, finding themselves, screwing up and owning up to it, especially the MC and her love interest. The only reason this was a four star read for me instead of five is that it took a little while to get fully immersed in the story, I felt like for a little over a third not much happened, but once I did, it was stellar, the second half of the book deserves a million stars. I loved the way it discussed identity, especially when it comes to gender and sexuality as well as being scared of what the future holds and really not knowing what to do with yourself. It was all so natural and casual.
Between the first and second chapter there is a three and a half years gap which served as a before and after of Savannah’s personality and behaviour and I think that was really well done because it had a lot of impact in showing instead of telling how drastic the change was, how big of a rift was created in her life in a few years and helped build up to her character development throughout the rest of the book.
As you know from the synopsis, Savannah’s dad has Huntington’s disease and what I liked most is that it wasn’t made about Savannah, it wasn’t made to make her and the reader some wild realisation about how you should take life by the horns or whatever. What was about Savannah is the numbing fear she experienced for most of the book about having the gene coding for the disease in her DNA as well, which makes her drop all her life plans, all she can think about is whether or not she has it, too scared to think about what her future might look like.
My favourite part of this novel is hands down the characters. They’re just so… real, that’s the first word that comes to mind when I think about them, it has some of the most authentic characters I’ve read in a while.
Savannah, or Vanni like everyone calls her, is Latina (Mexican if I’m not mistaken) and she isn’t your typical likeable character but you STILL fall in love with her. She’s hard on the outside but soft and mushy on the inside. She’s a no strings attached kind of girl, literally too scared of the future to make any kind of comittement to anyone or anything. No boyfriends, no friends, no plans, no Nothing. She’s essentially just existing. It got to a point where she has isolated herself so much that contact with people her age has become awkward and strained and that is just an experience I never really read about in a book? And I loved it here. Vanni also starts questioning her sexuality throughout the book and that was done so freaking well in my opinion, Leigh helped her figure it out but it was ultimately up to her which label fit her best and she ended up settling on bisexual. Not a spoiler. Sexuality is never a spoiler.
Leigh, her love interest, is genderqueer, which is only revealed towards the end of the book but that too wasn’t a big deal, it wasn’t some big reveal, just a lowkey conversation between her and Savannah. Leigh uses she/her pronouns for the whole book but they are said not to fit anymore by the end but that people can keep referring to her that way while she figures out pronouns that fit her better. Leigh is a wild one, snarky and hard to crack, has anger managements issues and breaks pretty much every kind of rule set for her. The only people Leigh has a soft spot for are her brother Lucas –who is a precious bean- with whom she has a complicated but ultimately loving relationship, and later on Savannah.
Both characters go through tremendous character development of their own, both in different, small as well as big, ways but helping each other with their own growth, pushing each other, fucking up but ultimately being there for each other when they really need it.
All in all, I would highly HIGHLY recommend Like Water. It’s a coming of age story that deals with important topics, one last thing I want to touch upon that I really appreciated about it is how it shows a bisexual person dating outside the binary, it pushes against the stigma that bi people are transphobic, date only men and women and so on and so forth.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Like Water? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.