Author: Nita Ferris
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Warnings: Domestic Violence, some gore
Nita Ferris was kind enough to offer me a copy of this book in exchange for a review, which I was happy to give! I went into this book with no prior expectations or any idea what it was about, which was refreshing.
Sneakers in the Water is a contemporary paranormal book that follows the Shaw family, each of whom (in the female persuasion at least) has a unique gift – being able to see someone’s life by touching them, for example, as well as aura-reading and the ability to see the dead. When oldest sister Terry witnesses a murder that hasn’t happened yet, she and her mother set out to stop it.
Interwoven with this supernatural/thriller element is the interpersonal drama amongst the family, including divorce fallout, broken relationships, navigating an LGBTQ+ relationship and more.
Overall, unfortunately I really struggled to connect with any of the characters in SitW, but there were angles of each that I did enjoy, such as the angle of Terry’s job as a psychiatrist and how that helped launch the major plot. The bond between the sisters and their mom also felt very realistic and almost gave off a Charmed-esque vibe – it had that early 2000’s kind of interaction and relationship.
Claire had her intriguing elements as well – being the only one in the family without a (confirmed) power by the time she’s in college. She was also the least-close with their mom, having gone with their dad post-divorce and spending the majority of her time rejecting the psychic/paranormal side of the family due to her father’s more religious bent. The father himself, unfortunately, falls into a bit of a tropey “anti-everything-the-MCs-are-about” kind of character where all of his reactions felt a little over-the-top, just for the sake of being that token jerk religious person. I will say the way Claire took his side did create an interesting if not entirely original push-pull element with Terry, their mom, and their other sister, Macy, however. Macy herself took a bit of a backseat for a lot of the story, her late-high-school jam-ups mostly overshadowed by her older sisters’ and mom’s closer relation to the plot. She didn’t play as large a role until about halfway through the story.
There were a few background characters, like Terry’s childhood best friend CJ, Claire’s roommate Ash, and Claire’s love interest Holden who were interesting enough when on the page but somewhat forgettable once they exited the scene. I frequently had to glance back through the book to remind myself who was who.
Being a contemporary paranormal, the worldbuilding is fairly minimal. The Shaw family’s abilities never seemed to stem from a particularly lore-based background, so there wasn’t much to extrapolate on in that regard. If you understand the world we live in, the world of SitW is pretty easy to follow!
Unfortunately, the plot was where I had the hardest time with SitW, because I never really felt grounded in the non-linear timeline. It’s told not only in alternating POV between Terry and Claire for a lot of the story, it’s also told in present day and flashbacks that were a little jarring to me. Just when it would start to feel like one setting or the other was ramping up, the story would jump, leaving me a little muddled and confused, struggling to get back into the flow of things, and then BAM, it would jump again.
It took forever for me to understand precisely how the not-yet-murder mystery played into the larger plot as well, which wasn’t helped by large portions of extended exposition about the family’s past that probably could’ve been spread more broadly throughout the book. While I did think the twist at the end – the reveal of the murderer’s true identity – was interesting, the mental gymnastics it took to actually get there left the payoff feeling a tad hollow. I gather there’s a sequel coming up which will expand on the outcome of that Big Reveal, but ultimately I was scratching my head a bit too much throughout the plot’s execution to be really gripped by it.
The prose in SitW is fairly straightforward, not at all a difficult read from that aspect. It’s told entirely in first person but alternates between Claire and Terry, and for the most part their narrative voice is pretty interchangeable, as mentioned before. There were a sprinkling of grammatical and punctuation errors that weren’t deal-breakers but did detract a little from the flow. The dialogue also seemed to skip between modern jargon and a lack of conjunctions that added a sort of stiff formality at times.
There were elements of Sneakers in the Water that were intriguing, and I know there are many people who will absolutely love the premise and execution of Sneakers in the Water. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those people. I do give mad props to Farris for a story which obviously had a ton of heart and soul put in it, but this novel wasn’t for me.
However, if this story’s premise intrigues you and you’d like to read for yourself, you can order a copy HERE!