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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Waterwight by Laurel McHargue is the first book in the Waterwight Series. The Event left Celeste and several other children orphaned. Celeste has spent the last few years in a children's home where no one will tell her what really happened. After her dreams become worse, she decides to take it upon herself to find the answers and runs away. She discovers she can talk to animals when a group of cats leads her to an abandoned house, only to be chased by wild dogs who become her protectors and take her to a mountain that tells her to search for a key with the power to save everyone from a deadly ooze. In her search, she meets a mysterious flying frog named Orville, who takes it upon himself to be her guardian, and stumbles across a village of children who have developed extraordinary abilities. To save her new friends she must find the key and stop the sinister plans of a devious Shifter.
Laurel McHargue delivers a unique and clever read with unexpected characters and an emotional journey. Most of the characters are children who are on their own and have to explore their newfound abilities in order to understand this new reality. Celeste is a brave and amazing character with a strong voice, who explores a compelling journey of courage and trust as it's up to her to decide how to save the world. The other children are equally riveting characters that capture the heart and add several emotional layers to the story. Among these children are Bridger, a five-year-boy who can make a boat, Nick who can stop time, and Chimney who can disappear at will. McHargue handles a large cast of characters with ease, capturing the personality of each while also balancing out how their abilities factor into the story and how they react to the changes happening around them. The other characters are the talking animals who guide Celeste along her way. They have a well developed blend of personified voice and animal nature. Ranger, Thunder, Eenie, and Oliver each play a significant role in Celeste's journey, assuming the roles of protector and guide, friend and confidant to her. Ranger and Eenie are among the ones that first spark her journey by pulling her into this other world and introducing her to her new abilities. Oliver is her strongest ally, and one of the most unique characters as he's a frog that can fly.
Each animal gives a fun flair to the story that's reminiscent of the absurdity of Alice in Wonderland, but their personalities keep them grounded in the story and their emotional ranges make them as well-developed as the human characters. McHargue includes several fun bizarre elements like ooze, flying frogs, earthquakes, and extraordinary powers, but everything fits into this world and is tempered by Celeste's calming presence, which keeps everything from feeling like it's too much. Waterwight is a brilliant and clever story of hope and bravery as one girl's journey as a hero can save the fate of the world.