Watercrossing (Book Review)

Opening Watercrossing, Book 3 of Krissi Dallas’s Phantom Island series, was like entering a time warp: all of a sudden I was back on the Island. Though months had passed here on the Mainland since I’d read Windchaser and Windfall, it was as if no time had passed at all due to the way in which Dallas dives immediately into the action, drama, intrigue, and suspense with characteristically vivid detail. Watercrossing picks up where Windfall leaves off, but not where we expect it to. The first twoWind books center entirely around the series’ protagonist and narrator, Whitnee Terradora. We eavesdrop on Whitnee’s thoughts, experiencing the Island entirely through Whitnee’s gray Aerodorian eyes. So when Watercrossing opens with third-person narration, it’s a bit disorienting, and it takes a while to figure out where we are and what’s happening and to whom. Dallas deftly uses a simple literary device to evoke rather than elucidate intense feelings of drama, suspense, and uncertainty. And this is exactly how novels, how art, should work: form follows function, and we find ourselves reading instead of sleeping and wishing we were on the Island when we’re stuck at work or school.

When we meet up again with Whitnee, Caleb, and Morgan, we find the threesome (once again through Whitnee’s first-person narration) driving home from Camp Fusion for the Fourth of July. On the way, they stop to interview the strange camper from when Whitnee’s dad was a counselor, the one that suddenly disappeared from camp and was found months later in California. The fragments he gives them seem like nonsense to the three friends, but the careful reader will pick up on Dallas’s Island-laden symbols and tuck them away as helpful hints and foreshadowing. Once home, and then again back at Camp Fusion, Whitnee’s feelings for Caleb, her green-eyed, boy-next-door, best friend, start to change, and Whitnee begins to see in her best friend what all the other girls have known all along… Caleb’s a catch. (Sorry, Whit, for the fish analogy.) This makes things complicated since Whitnee isn’t over Island hottie Pyra, Gabriel. (Who would be?) And as things heat up in the love triangle, I imagine the competition among Dallas’s fans, who vehemently took sides during the Wind books, will only heat up too. Dallas’s blog and Facebook page was covered in comments from “Team Gabriel” and “Team Caleb” when books 1 and 2 released. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens… how many stay true and how many trade sides… as events unfold in the newly released Watercrossing (May 22, 2012).

Dallas’s Phantom Island series is not only driven by action, drama, and suspense; ultimately, they are character driven. When I reviewed the Wind books (before they were split into two books, which I think was a smart move by Tate and a better format for the series), I mentioned how the characters took hold of me, captivating my imagination and my interest. Returning to the series with Watercrossing is like seeing old friends after a long absence; the reunion does my heart good. Phantom Island‘s likable and life-like characters are a large part of the books’ wide appeal across age and gender, and it evidences Dallas’s deep knowledge of her characters and her ability to entrust the story to them. These elements of Dallas’s craftsmanship are heightened in Watercrossing when roughly half-way through the novel, the voice of the narrator shifts again, and readers are privileged with invading this new narrator’s inner thoughts and personal space, which in turn gives us better insight into all the other characters as well.

Choice and personal responsibility, one of the largest themes of the series, crops up throughout Watercrossing as it did in the first two books, but one instance in particular caught my attention. Whitnee, a headstrong, emotionally-driven teenager, makes a lot of big mistakes throughout the series (which is why she’s fortunate in the friends she has, friendship being another huge theme of the books), but she also makes good choices, usually because of her thought-through convictions. One of the biggest Whitnee-wins happens on page 285. I can’t talk about it, or I’d give too much away. But when you get there, pay attention, especially if you’re a young woman, because with the wisdom she relates regarding choices, Whitnee bravely rejects a very old, very powerful social script that dehumanizes women and men alike. The more women who can follow Whitnee’s example, the better the world will be.

Watercrossing delivers everything we expect it to and more. It’s full of humor and suspense, action and romance, and if you know where to look, life-affirming symbolism and motifs. Dallas never shies away from life’s dark corners or trivializes the uncertain and unknown. She has her characters struggle through and learn to face them, which in turn helps us do the same. That’s the power of reading good literature. You won’t be disappointed when you pick up Watercrossing. You’ll only be sad when you put it down after finishing it and you have to wait for the release of the next novel, Watermark, to see what happens next to the characters you’ve come to love.

For more about the author and her books, visit her website: http://krissidallas.tateauthor.com/

[You may also remember when Krissi wrote a really helpful guest post answer to email here for a young writer who struggled with being true to her art without dishonoring God.]

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