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Dark Water by Laura McNeal

Dark Water by Laura McNeal

Sometimes we make choices that have unexpected and devastating consequences. In Dark Water by Laura McNeal, 15-year-old narrator Pearl begins her story with just such a dark foreboding. Then, page by page, chapter after chapter, the shocking story unfolds.

Pearl and her mother live in the modest guesthouse of her uncle’s southern California avocado ranch since her parent’s messy divorce. Passing groups of day-laborers on her daily commute to school, Pearl is drawn to Amiel, an older boy with a talent for mime. After convincing Uncle Hoyt to hire Amiel, she learns that he lives alone in a makeshift hut in the woods, evading la migra, the border patrol. Throughout that dry, searing summer, Pearl watches Amiel, fascinated by his mysterious inability to talk.

 Along the way, readers meet Pearl’s cousin Robby, a musical prodigy, who is suspicious that his father is having an affair; her mother, a substitute school teacher with a penchant for trying wacky business ventures; and her best friend who has the hots for a delinquent with the appropriate name Hickey. In her forbidden pursuit of Amiel, Pearl ditches school, sneaks out of the house and spins a web of lies that will inevitably backfire. Meanwhile, time marches relentlessly toward the deadly fall California wildfire season and Pearl’s life-altering decision.

A National Book Award finalist for Dark Water, author McNeal wrote from personal experience, surviving the burning and subsequent evacuation of Fallbrook, a quaint, rural town surrounded by avocado groves. After seeing the devastation first hand and reading about the charred bodies found near the Mexican border, McNeal began writing her story.