cover image Barely Floating

Barely Floating

Lilliam Rivera. Kokila, $17.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-59332-312-0

Rivera (We Light Up the Stars) makes a splash with this charming novel about a fat Latinx 12-year-old who dreams of becoming a synchronized swimmer. Natalia De La Cruz Rivera y Santiago knows it’s “hard to contain a person like me,” a short-tempered hustler who spends her summer days at the public pool challenging other young swimmers to races she knows she’ll win. After watching a performance by Black-owned synchronized swimming team the L.A. Mermaids, Nat is spellbound and immediately wants to join the squad, but her hyper-activist mother forbids her from trying out, believing that the sport is anti-feminist because of its focus on costuming and traditionally slender and white beauty standards. Nat secretly joins anyway, making new friends and finding security in her fatness. But clashes with thin, affluent teammates and increasing emotional distance between Nat and her best friend sour her newfound passions. Nat is a confident protagonist whose stalwart self-acceptance makes her a character worth rooting for. In laugh-out-loud, blunt prose, Rivera cultivates a touching and unapologetically positive interpretation of one tween’s desire to break the mold. Supporting characters are racially diverse. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)