Mika Arlington’s parents are marine biologists, and she wants to pursue the same career path. So she has worked in the aquatic section of their local pet store and has an internship lined up for the summer at her parents’ aquarium.
Then her paternal grandmother—who has never approved of her parents’ inter-racial marriage—shows up on their doorstep. She has Alzheimer’s, is out of money, and has nowhere else to go.
Mika’s parents give her a choice: they can dip into her college fund to hire full-time help for her grandmother or Mika can give up her internship and spend part of her summer taking care of her racist grandmother instead.
If that isn’t enough, her boss at the pet store hires his surly, obnoxious nephew. What was supposed to be the best summer of her life is turning out to be anything but fantastic…at least until she gets to know both her grandmother and her new co-worker quite a bit better.
I enjoyed the previous three books I’ve read of Natalie Whipple’s (Transparent, Blindsided, and House of Ivy and Sorrow), so when she offered up copies of Fish Out of Water for bloggers to review, I requested one.
I’ll be honest: I’ve liked Whipple’s other books, but they aren’t some of my favorites. When I’d heard that Fish Out of Water had been accepted by a UK publisher but Whipple was going to self-publish it in the US because it wasn’t sold to a North American territory, I didn’t open the file with high expectations.
I was surprised to find that of her books I’ve read, I think this is by far her best.
Mika’s relationship with her grandmother was so conflicted and nuanced. You got a great look at how horrible Alzheimer’s is, as well as how someone can be much more horrible than the disease could ever make them. What I loved best about it was how her grandmother was a nasty person, but she was not simply painted as a villain. Whipple created a sick, racist woman, but she gave the character reasonable motivations and moments where Mika (and the reader) glimpsed who this woman could have become in different circumstances. I wouldn’t have ever guessed that my favorite part of a YA book would have been the relationship between the main character and her grandmother.
One of my favorite sub-plots was with Mika’s friend Shreya and her Indian family. I have many Indian friends and acquaintances, and Shreya’s family’s reaction to their son dating a white woman was an accurate one for many Indian families. Warning: if you like Indian food, the descriptions of the family restaurant will have you looking up curry recipes.
Then there was the romance. I’m not going to lie—it was the only part of the book that fell a little flat for me.
On the plus side, the transition between Mika and Dylan hating each other to dating was a gradual one. They had a lot of cute banter and some great kissing.
On the down side, at the end there was some very clichéd misunderstandings to give some (fake) dramatic tension toward the end of the book.
If you read solely for romance, and the contrived misunderstanding would drive you crazy, this one might not be for you. If, like me, you’re much more interested in reading about a diverse set of characters with very complicated, realistic relationships, I’d advise you to pick this one up. Especially since the ebook is only $3.99.
HUGE thanks to the author, Natalie Whipple, who provided us with a copy to review.
WRITTEN BY JENNY
Jenny’s Current Obsessions: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, pictures of baby animals, the word emulsify, finding the perfect dress that makes her look skinnier than she is, cake, Sauvignon Blanc, sun-dried tomato pesto, and making a dent in her TBR list.