Disclaimer: I received a copy of Up for Air from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Thirteen-year-old Annabelle struggles in school, no matter how hard she tries. But as soon as she dives into the pool, she’s unstoppable. She’s the fastest girl on the middle school swim team, and when she’s asked to join the high school team over the summer, everything changes. Suddenly, she’s got new friends, and a high school boy starts treating her like she’s somebody special—and Annabelle thinks she’ll finally stand out in a good way. She’ll do anything to fit in and help the team make it to the Labor Day Invitational, even if it means blowing off her old friends. But after a prank goes wrong, Annabelle is abandoned by the older boy and can’t swim. Who is she without the one thing she’s good at?
Summary: Up for Air
Annabelle is a fantastic swimmer who happens to have learning difficulties. She’s happy to finally be getting something right when she’s moved up to the high school team in the summer. However, things get a bit complicated when an older boy starts showing her attention and her estranged father seems to want to return to her life.
I LOVED THIS BOOK. Up for Air is so well written — with such a strong, unforgettable voice. I enjoyed the deft way the author tackles all the teenage issues, family struggles, and the way Annabelle works to figure out who she really is. Author Morrison addresses many important themes in this middle-grade novel. Annabelle has real learning difficulties and readers will see her struggle to maintain a sense of self-worth as she navigates this. She struggles through tests and is understandably embarrassed to be the last one to finish every time. We also see how this in turn affects her friendships.
Another impossible-to-ignore angle is the family drama she faces — dealing with her estranged father. However, the most achingly familiar issue Annabelle works through is the admiration from an older boy. I felt helpless and frustrated watching her walk into a no-good situation, and readers will feel every dilemma she has.
Trigger Warning: One of the minor characters is recovering from an eating disorder. There’s nothing graphic, but she still finds eating a challenge.
In Up for Air, Laurie Morrison perfectly captures the issues of competitive female friendships, the desire to be liked and accepted by an older crowd, and the search for identity. This book is so special to me, because it’s one of those middle-grade books that handles difficult topics, but is still such a pageturner. I would highly recommend Up for Air for lovers of books about learning difficulties, swimming, and family troubles.