Up for Air Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-09-08 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 5 user ratings

"I had the opportunity to read a NetGalley digital-ARC of this middle grade novel in exchange for a review. Just in time for summer vacation, this book will resonate with middle school-aged kids who have a hard time figuring out just where they belong in this world.

This Cape Cod island community is just beginning the summer season and Annabelle has finished seventh grade with poor grades and a belief that her academic struggles will be with her forever. But when she dives into the pool, all of her school troubles are left behind, and she becomes the power swimmer that wins competitions and shatters records. Noticed by the coaches of the swim team, Annabelle is invited to swim on the high school team because of her strength and abilities. But with this exciting opportunity comes more drama and temptation as Annabelle starts to run with an older crowd and develops a major crush on Connor, who is two years older than her and very flirtatious. This creates tension with her middle school friends and her parents and leads her to make some unfortunate choices that threaten to ruin her chance to become a star on the high school swim team.

I love the setting of this story. This book lets readers step into this beachy, island community to hang out on sandy dunes with these kids, enjoy eating frozen treats at the Creamery, and experience the thrill of swimming competitions. I also think that middle grade students that enjoy friendship and family dramas will be able to take this one to the pool and feel like they’re spending vacation with a new friend. I like that while the dialogue and situations ring true for this age group, and that Annabelle behaves in ways that get her into trouble with her family, the actions of Connor and the rest of the high school group still stay within the bounds of appropriate content for middle schoolers. I think this book would be appropriate for kids in grades six and up.
" said.

"Adolescence is hard. Seventh grader Annabelle is not a great student. She studies hard, is allowed extra time on tests, and is tutored at lunchtime, but her grades remain C’s. She sees how her friends pity her when tests are given out, and she is afraid of losing her scholarship to the boarding school where she is a day student. But the one place Annabelle does not have to struggle is in the swimming pool where she is the fastest swimmer on the middle grade summer swim team.

When Annabelle is invited to join the high school team, she finally feels like she excels and belongs and is someone special, but her problems are just beginning. When Connor, one of the best looking and most popular high school boys, starts paying her attention, Annabelle reads too much meaning into his texts and flirting. ”She felt powerful. Unstoppable. Extraordinary.” (12) When her father who left years before contacts her, she also reads more into his invitation as she runs away to join him.

In this confusing summer when her friend Mia joins the popular crowd and she pushes away her longtime friend Jeremy in order to hang out with Connor, Annabelle almost loses who she is. “”But it struck her how easy it was to bond with girls, too, by sort of making fun of someone else.… She didn’t like it when she was part of the group that got complained about but here she was doing it, too.” (122) In a prank to impress Connor who, it turns out, has a girlfriend, Annabelle is injured and the summer seems to be a disaster. “No swimming, no Mia, no Jeremy, and now no Connor.” (215)

But Belle finally appreciates how special she is to her mother and her stepfather, and she apologizes to Jeremy and reevaluates her relationship to Mia who is negotiating her own adolescence. And she decides that what she wants is to be strong “Even if that meant doing scary embarrassing things….” (271)

Laurie Morrison’s new novel shares the growing pains of adolescence where some things may be easy but even more are hard—and confusing.
" said.

"Morrison taught middle school English for ten years and I think that's part of why this book is so fun and relatable for me who teaches junior high. She has another novel called Every Shiny Thing that I need to get my hands on too!

I've been meaning to read Up for Air for a while so I was excited that I could read it first before book talking it to my students. It is such a great book and I think that they will enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Up for Air is about Annabelle, a thirteen-year-old girl who struggles at school but excels in the water. When summer comes and she gets to spend more and more of her time in the pool, she feels more like herself. But this year, everything changes when she is asked to join the high school swim team instead of swimming for the middle school team with her friends. Suddenly she is learning how to interact with the older crowd--including a boy who seems to pay her special attention. She starts to feel like she is standing out in a good way.

However, Annabelle finds that she starts having to compromise her values and her relationships with her friends in order to fit in with the high school kids. After she gets into some trouble with her new friends, the high school boy abandons her, she is injured, and can't even swim. Annabelle finds that she doesn't know who she is without swimming--the one thing she feels like she is good at. She must rediscover who she is and what self-worth is.

Morrison did such a fantastic job of capturing what it means to be a teenage girl. Annabelle's self-talk reminds me a lot of what it was like to be thirteen and what my 7th grade students are feeling all the time. Teenagers are always in a hurry to grow up. They define their self-worth on what other people think of them or the things that they feel like they are good at. They get hyper-focused on themselves and forget about how their actions affect other people. I felt like Annabelle embodies what a lot of thirteen-year-old girls experience and how they might react if an older boy starts showing them attention.

The rest of the characters in the book are also well fleshed out and I can see other typical teenage behavior in her friends and swim team-mates.

It was a pretty quick read as well. It only took me a couple of days because the back to school season is so busy. It's a fast paced book since it covers a large chunk of the summer in just one book. There is enough action to keep things interesting but it was well balanced with dialogue and character development.

I highly recommend this upper-middle-grade novel for anyone who loves swimming, realistic fiction, coming of age books, and teachers looking for relatable books for their junior high aged kids.
" said.

"E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

As the last day of school rolls around, Annabelle is stressed because she is doing poorly yet again on a test, and she fears that she will loose her scholarship to the fancy private school she attends. She excels at swimming, and being at the pool helps her handled the other stressors in her life. These includes her mom and step dad, Mitch, who are good about picking her up for rides, supportive of her learning disabilities, and strict about her behavior, but who just don't quite understand her. Her best friend, Mia, is obsessed with school work and does well, but also jealous of Annabelle's more teen-like physique, and her friend Jeremy is going to spend the summer at a geek camp. Annabelle is asked to be on the high school swim team, even though she just finished 7th grade, and she is thrilled to be recognized for her ability, AND because Connor is on the team. Connor flirts with everyone, but Annabelle is still excited that he offers her a ride to practice, gets her phone number, and texts her occasionally. When Annabelle gets a letter from her father, whom she hasn't seen often because of his alcoholism, she starts longing to be with him, since she can't remember much about their interactions. Annabelle starts spending more and more time with the high school students, to the chagrin of Mia and Jeremy, and gets into trouble with them one evening when they try to get into the pool of a local celebrity. The high schoolers bail when she gets hurt, although Jeremy wisely calls his mother to pick them up. Annabelle's thumb is broken, so she can't swim. Mia and Jeremy are angry with her, she's grounded, and her mother is talking about sending her to the local school after a meeting to discuss adjusting Annabelle's academic accommodations. Overwhelmed, Annabelle decides to travel into the city to see her father, seeing him as a safe haven. This doesn't go well, either, and she's finally able to have a conversation with her mother about the things going on in her life.
Strengths: I loved the fact that Annabelle had a crush on Connor, who was just a little older than she was, and that he paid attention to her. I also loved the fact that it didn't work out between the two of him, and that Annabelle was realistically crushed when he had a girlfriend. Crushes and relationships are a much more important part of the middle school experience than one could guess from middle grade literature! The swimming details are good, and it's always good to have books about students in sports. The family drama is also realistic-- Mitch is a good step dad, and Annabelle likes his daughters, but she still has fond memories (as well as bad ones) about her father.
Weaknesses: While I enjoyed this one, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I thought there would be more swimming details, but the swim team time was taken up more with the drama. The learning difficulty hook was similarly disappointing-- aside from being tutored during the summer and having to meet with the principal about accommodations, this does not get much mention. I was hoping for another book similar to Gerber's Focused, but with swimming! For friend and family drama, this is excellent, but I had set my mind on "swimming" and "learning difficulties".
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. The swimming is great to have, but I'll have to hand sell this to readers who like friend and family drama.
" said.

" Having a competitive swimmer and being a swimmer myself made this book so fun to read. There are not too many books about swimming so loved the little details in this one. Love the cover, but it does give the appearance that the book leans towards the younger end of middle grade fiction. This is definitely a book got middle school readers. " said.

"I'm so grateful to have read an ARC of Laurie Morrison's solo middle grade debut Up For Air. The story is just right for older middle schoolers, especially those students who love to read, but are too old for typical middle grade books and aren't yet ready to tackle the subject matter of young adult books. Morrison has a talent for writing relatable characters with a touch of humor. In this book in particular, she brings the Cape Cod summer to life with rich detail. It's easy to imagine that you are sitting on the warm sand of the beach, watching the ocean or that you are at the pool, smelling chlorine and french fries. But the best aspect of this book is the way that Morrison allows you to feel Annabelle's experiences as she struggles with school, learns that she's being invited to swim with high schoolers, navigates the changes in friendships and falls for her first crush. My heart broke when Annabelle's was broken and it soared with her successes. I wept at the ending because Morrison created a beautiful emotional moment where I could see what had changed for Annabelle and I could glimpse of what lay before her. I can't wait for this book to be in the hands of students who will love it as much as I did. " said.

"A perfect book for my middle school classroom library! I loved this book so much, I almost don’t want to share it with the others in my ARC reviewing group! But when this book is officially released in May 2019, I’ll be sure to purchase extra copies for my classroom.

I know my students will want to read all about the main character, Annabelle, as she navigates rough waters both in and out of the swimming pool. Though she faces academic challenges in school, Annabelle is a wiz on her middle school swim team. In fact, Annabelle is so fast that her coach asks her to swim on the high school team. While Annabelle can undoubtedly keep up the pace with the older kids in the pool, outside of the pool, things seem to be moving too fast for her. Will Annabelle leave her middle school friends behind as she develops a crush on a high school boy and is invited to hangout with his crew? That is just one of the many tough questions Annabelle faces when she is thrown into the fast lane. Will she sink or swim and who will be there to rescue her when it all starts to fall apart?

Middle grade readers will be able to relate to the many issues Annabelle faces. As a reading specialist, I know I can use excerpts of this book to show students how characters change and grow as they overcome conflict. If you are a reading teacher who uses Kylene Beers and Robert Probst’s Notice and Note Signposts to help students with comprehension, you’ll have many to discuss here. This book was rich with Tough Questions, Memory Moments, Again and Agains and Aha Moments. Overall, Up For Air, has everything a reader and a teacher could ask for. It is an absolutely perfect book for middle school students and I can’t wait until I can finally add it to my classroom library. For now though, I’ll have to force myself to part with it so members of my book review group can enjoy Annabelle’s story as well.
" said.

"Remember when you were in middle school and your friendships went through changes? Welcome to Annabelle’s life. Up for Air is a great mix of friendship angst, summer fun, exciting sports drama, and girl power. Morrison proves she really knows what middle schoolers think. This is well written and full of heart. A great book for tweens and young teens who aren’t quite ready for YA but are beyond books for third through fifth graders. The swim team scenes were so accurately portrayed. Don't miss this!" said.

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