Friday 20 February 2015


Book review: Fish Out of Water by Natalie Whipple

My edition: Paperback, published on 5 February 2015 by Hot Key Books, 322 pages.

Description: Mika Arlington was supposed to spend the summer after her junior year shadowing her marine biologist parents at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but when her estranged grandmother randomly shows up on the doorstep one day, those plans are derailed.

Because Grandma Betty isn't here to play nice—she is cranky, intolerant of Mika's mixed-race-couple parents, and oh yeah she has Alzheimer's and is out of money. While Mika's family would rather not deal with Grandma Betty, they don't have much choice. And despite Mika's protests, she is roped into caring for a person that seems impossible to have compassion for.

And if that wasn't hard enough, Mika must train the new guy at her pet shop job who wants to be anywhere else, and help a friend through her own family crisis. Something's gotta a give, but whichever ball Mika drops means losing someone she loves. Not exactly a recipe for Best Summer Ever—or is it?


After reading a series of poignant but mentally draining adult novels around terminal illness, I was ready to be distracted by a light and fluffy read and Fish Out of Water perfectly fitted that bill. I admit that the cover initially did make this book come across a bit childish, but when I read the blurb I realised that rather than a middle grade read this was the young adult romance I needed to lift my spirits.

Mika Arlington is the daughter of two marine biologists and it shows; obsessed with sea life she not only works in a pet store during the holidays, but her entire summer will be revolving around her coveted internship at the aquarium. However, when Mika's grandmother Betty appears on their doorstep it seems that her amazing summer is over before it has even truly began.

Betty has Alzheimer's and with no money to take care of herself she has decided to move in with her son, Mika's father, and his family. The thing is, Betty doesn't get along with her son and Mika has not even met her until now – and for good reason too. Betty was horrible after her son fell in love with a Japanese woman, her racist profanities fractioning their relationship for what seemed beyond repair. And in her current muddled mental state, she hasn't gotten any better.

Suddenly Mika's summer revolves around taking care of her difficult grandmother instead of the fish at the aquarium. And to make matters worse, her sanctuary at the pet store is thrown in uproar too when the owner's nephew Dylan starts working there as well, who is, if possible even more stubborn than her grandmother.

Fish Out of Water was an utterly delightful read; the perfect pick-me-up after a hectic work week. Once again I was reminded to not judge a book by its cover (which, by the way, would've looked fantastic displaying just the title without actually visualising the fish) but instead let the blurb guide me, which was a much better indication of the brilliant story hiding within its pages. 

Protagonist Mika was an instantly likeable and quirky character, one that as a reader you cannot help but fall in love with, even when perhaps at times she gets a little too caught up in her own issues to pay proper attention to her friends. It's not very nice, but it is very realistic in the life of a teenager – they tend to believe the universe revolves around them, after all.

Predictably, but not any less exciting because of it, romantic sparks soon started to fly back and forth between her and Dylan and even though I haven't been a teenager for a very long time, the descriptions of the bad boy made even me fall in love with him, and my heart fluttered for the blossoming romance between the two.

For the most part this was a charming book to dream away with, but author Natalie Whipple didn't shy away from covering some heavy issues that sadly still prevail in today's day and age, including racism, prejudice and social classes, to name but a few. It's harrowing that people still face such horrible judgements simply for where they were born and how much money they have access to, oftentimes not because of anything they did themselves, and I hope that excellent novels such as this one shining a light on the issues will urge people to be more accepting. After all, we're all the same on the inside.

Fish Out of Water is the perfect young adult treat for fans of the sweet romance novels from Jennifer E. Smith, with the added quirkiness of Rainbow Rowell and the emotional punch of John Green – so basically a triple whammy of all that is brilliant in YA fiction right now.

You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:


Twitter: @nataliewhipple

Many thanks to the publisher for an advance copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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