Mini Review: Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz

May Contain Spoilers

Up From the Sea is a moving story of a boy who survived the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. The account of his fear during the quake and flight from the deadly ocean surge is suspenseful and very scary. I can’t imagine experiencing it myself. His worries about the fate of his family is also very emotional. Kai has lost everything, and his helplessness and hopelessness resonate through the author’s use of free verse. How can he go on, knowing that his mother, grandmother, and grandfather have all died? Everything he loved and took for granted is gone. His family, his friends, his school, even his soccer ball – gone.

With nothing left to anchor him, Kai drifts from one day to the next, wondering why he bothers. He’s thrown a lifeline and invited to New York to meet with survivors of 9/11 who have also lost parents to tragedy. From their shared grief, he finds the strength to go on. He can also, finally, put into perspective his anger at the father who abandoned him years before.

I found Kai’s struggle to find himself and to find a purpose in his new life after the quake both gripping and bittersweet.  Told in free verse, this is a very fast read, so it’s not a huge time commitment. Recommended.

Grade: B / B+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book

A powerful novel-in-verse about how one teen boy survives the March 2011 tsunami that devastates his coastal Japanese village.

On that fateful day, Kai loses nearly everyone and everything he cares about in the storm. When he’s offered a trip to New York to meet kids whose lives were changed by 9/11, Kai realizes he also has a chance to look for his estranged American father. Visiting Ground Zero on its tenth anniversary, Kai learns that the only way to make something good come out of the disaster back home is to return there and help rebuild his town.

Heartrending yet hopeful, Up from the Sea is a story about loss, survival, and starting anew.

Fans of Jame Richards’s Three Rivers Rising and teens who read Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust as middle graders will embrace this moving story. An author’s note includes numerous sources detailing actual events portrayed in the story.

Running through my ruined town,
pack flapping like wings
against my back.
Plowing through blocks
strewn with heaps of
in a marshland

2 thoughts on “Mini Review: Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz

  • March 9, 2016 at 7:53 am

    This sounds like a heart-wrenching book.

  • March 9, 2016 at 8:26 am

    @Majanka – The ending is very uplifting.

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