Tuesday 17 November 2020

Book Review: My Heart Underwater by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo book cover

AD* | After Corazon's mother catches her kissing her older female teacher, Corazon is sent to the Philippines to live with a half brother she barely knows. There she learns more about loss and love than she could have ever imagined.

Corazon Tagubio is an outcast at her Catholic school. She’s attending on scholarship, she keeps to herself, and her crush on her teacher Ms Holden doesn’t help anything. At home, Cory’s less-than-perfect grades disappoint her mom and dad, who are already working overtime to support her distant half brother in the Philippines.

When an accident leaves her dad comatose, Cory feels like Ms Holden is the only person who really sees her. But when a crush turns into something more and the secret gets out, Cory is sent to her half brother. She’s not prepared to face a stranger in an unfamiliar place, but she begins to discover how the country that shaped her past might also change her future.

This #ownvoices story takes readers on a journey across the world as Cory comes to understand her family, her relationships, and, ultimately, herself.

My Heart Underwater tells the story of Corazon, a teenage Filipino American. Cory is a troubled teen, dedicated to her studies yet harbouring a secret that goes against everything her religion has taught her. However, when Cory's crush on her history teacher turns into something more than just a crush, it doesn't take long for her world to come crashing down. Coupled with a horrible accident and Cory's dad sustaining serious injuries, it isn't long before her mother decides the best idea is to send Cory away to the Philippines to live with her half-brother. 

The first half of the book is fast-paced and action-packed. Cory is intense, struggling to cope, and with one thing after another, it's no surprise that her first visit to her parents' home country is initially filled with sadness, heartache, and anxiety. It's easy to feel sorry for Cory - so much happens so fast, and it's important to remember that she is also a victim in an inappropriate student-teacher relationship. 

Cory may not be perfect and she certainly has a lot of family drama and emotional baggage, but she also undergoes clear character development throughout the book. As her relationship with her half-brother strengthens, Cory finds a new side to herself and even begins to enjoy her time in the Philippines. 

It is also satisfying that the LGBTQ+ element to the story is casual and natural. Characters have their opinions, but Cory's sexuality is her own to explore and importantly, it is a key part of who she is. Coupled with the vivid descriptions of daily life in the Philippines - and Cory's experiences visiting as a FilAm - this is a fresh and engaging Own Voices story. 

Endearing yet gritty, My Heart Underwater is a story of love, heartbreak, and coming to terms with who you are. 

Rating: 3 stars 

My Heart Underwater is available to buy now. 

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading the book? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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