Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Girl Underwater"

Claire Kells was born outside Philadelphia and has lived in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco since graduating from Princeton University in 2005. An English major, she didn’t start writing fiction until her first year of medical school. Now a second-year resident, she spends her free time writing stories about love, loss, and adventure.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Girl Underwater, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“For everywhere.” Then, like he’s embarrassed to admit this: “It’s one of my hobbies.”

“Well, that’s…nice.” It’s the most personal thing he’s shared since we crashed. Which is ironic, in a way, because weather is the talk of strangers.

“It’s a little nerdy.”

“I mean, sure. A little.”

His smile loosens the tangle of nerves in my stomach. “Anyway, I’m guessing we’re somewhere between Denver and Salt Lake City. The flight path is always more or less the same from San Fran to Boston.”

“So…near Vail, maybe?”

“Maybe,” he says.

“What did the report say?”

He looks up at the sky. “Snow later today.”

“Snow?” The word creeps past my lips.

“A foot in Salt Lake.” He pauses. “Probably more up here.”

I crane my neck and search the skies for what feels like the thousandth time. The occasional plane cruising some twenty thousand feet above us doesn’t reassure me at all; it just makes me feel smaller, like a tiny speck on a woodsy-green canvas. Even with the NTSB’s technology and black boxes and GPS, searching the Rockies for survivors before a big storm hits puts other people at risk—especially if the powers that be assume no one made it out alive.

Colin abandons the cords and kneels in front of me. “They’ll find us, Avery.”

His eyes tell such grievous truths, which weigh on me more than anything—more than the altitude, or the weather, or the fact that three boys are depending on us. Because once someone decides we’re dead, it’s all for nothing. We won’t make it out of here.
This is a pretty pivotal scene, to be honest. Avery’s initial reaction to their current situation is relief—they survived the crash, and the sinking plane, and a frigid swim to shore. She thinks the hard part’s over, and now they just have to wait for the rescue team to swoop in.

Except that doesn’t happen, and in this conversation with Colin, she’s starting to realize that they may not be rescued right away. In fact, they could die from a number of things—exposure, hypothermia, starvation. This scene really heightens the stakes in that respect.

The other aspect of this scene that makes it important is the brief insight into Avery’s relationship with Colin. Their conversation here is a little stilted, and Colin hesitates to reveal any personal details about himself. The reasons for this will be explored later, but at this point, Colin doesn’t say much. He and Avery are both trying to navigate a difficult situation while also, in some small way, making an effort to get to know each other.

I do think this scene is representative of the book as a whole. There’s angst, and unanswered questions, and the threat of bad things to come. All of those things continue to ramp up from here.
Visit Claire Kells's website.

--Marshal Zeringue