Melissa Walker’s new novel, Unbreak My Heart, is out this week! We asked Melissa to share a few words on writing and water . . . and a writing challenge!
My new novel, Unbreak My Heart, is set aboard a family sailboat called The Possibility. As 16-year-old Clem floats away with her parents and little sister, she’s incredibly sad, thinking about the year the broke her heart. Little does she know that she’s embarking on the summer that just may heal it.
I am a total sucker for waterfront situations—lake houses, beach cottages, sailboats. Setting a story near a body of water can add so much atmosphere and emotion. An angry sea creates tension, a calm pond might evoke nostalgia or peace, a rushing river could symbolize change or the passage of time. Water, man. So meaningful.
Here are five books I’ve loved that are set at land’s edge, and each uses water in a very different way:
Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando
Jane and her family, still dealing with the death of her mother years earlier, inherit her grandfather’s house in Coney Island. There, Jane discovers a world full of singing mermaids, mysterious misfits and beautiful tattooed boys. Altebrando’s writing is laced with magic, making the entire story like a lovely dream that you hope won’t end–and the ocean roars in the background for the entire novel.
Surface Tension by Brent Runyon
In this story told in four summers, Luke goes from 13-16 years old, and we follow him on a two-week vacation at a family lake cottage every year. Luke’s voice is sympathetic and smart, and the nuances of each summer–from earnest to cynical and back again–are alternately hilarious and heartbreaking.
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
This one isn’t vacation-water, it’s creepy-water. It’s a tale of an underwater town, a girl who drowned and a pair of sisters with a steadfast bond. Gorgeous writing blurs the line between realistic fiction and something more otherworldly, and the story manages to be both heart-stirring and suspenseful while the water provides a whole separate world to be discovered.
The Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han
Technically, these are three books, but once you read one, you’ll read them all. They’re set mostly in a beach town where the lazy days of summer find Belly falling in love with two brothers who’ve been family friends forever. There are so many swoony moments in these books that I stopped counting, and the ocean backdrop adds to the romance.
We Were Here by Matt de la Peña
This one’s not set entirely on the water, but the scenes on the shore, especially, will make your heart ache. When Miguel is sentenced to spend a year in a group home, he’s angry, guarded and alone. Despite his surliness, you will love him instantly. He meets two unlikely friends — Mong and Rondell — who are both also trying to overcome intense personal tragedies. You’ll love them too. The voices are sharp, and the plot is riveting and full of unexpected turns that feel honest.
Feeling nautical? Write a story of 150 words or fewer set by the water and tag your story WalkerFlash. The Figment team will choose four winners to be featured along with Unbreak My Heart on the Figment homepage. You have until 4 p.m. ET on June 1 to tag your writing. Read the full guidelines, and get writing!