Skip to main content

Up From the Sea

Review

Up From the Sea

UP FROM THE SEA, the second young adult novel of yoga instructor and translator Leza Lowitz, follows Kai, a survivor of the Japanese tsunami in 2011. The novel follows Kai’s ordeal during the tsunami and his experiences trying to adjust to the ruin around him after his small coastal town is destroyed. Although Kai struggles with the loss of his family and longs to search for his estranged father in New York, he finds solace in teaching soccer to the younger children in his village.

Lowtiz, who was in Tokyo during the earthquake, based her novel upon both news articles and personal accounts of the survivors of the tsunami. As a result, UP FROM THE SEA provides realistic insight into a natural disaster that continues to affect millions of lives in Japan today. Still, Lowtiz occasionally shies away from describing the harsh realities of life in a natural disaster zone, as Kai mostly remains well fed and clothed throughout the novel. The descriptions of Kai’s mud-covered and ruined town, however, are crystal clear, shocking the reader with images of complete destruction. Also, because readers see the tsunami from Kai’s point of view, they can imagine the disaster in a very personal way.

UP FROM THE SEA provides a fascinating and informative story that will interest anyone who hopes to become more aware of the world around them.

The development of Kai’s character remains the main focus of UP FROM THE SEA; the large cast of the secondary characters, such as Kai’s best friend Shin and Kai’s crush Keiko, are only presented as flat characters. Even though Kai’s perspective is well-developed, the use of verse limits the amount of conversations between characters, leaving much to be imagined about their feelings and lives. However, this also reflects Kai’s self-absorption, reminding the reader that he is still a teenager, even though he is forced to deal with very mature issues, such as identifying his grandmother’s body. The growth of Kai’s character from a scared boy to a confident leader of his soccer team reminds all readers of the hope that can spring from calamity, and that fresh starts are possible with the help of community.

In all, UP FROM THE SEA provides a fascinating and informative story that will interest anyone who hopes to become more aware of the world around them. Readers who enjoy verse will also find this novel intriguing, with its harsh and realistic imagery juxtaposed with beautiful language. Even with some gaps in character development, Kai’s tragic but inspiring story is well worth the read.

Reviewed by Janine C., Teen Board member on January 15, 2016

Up From the Sea
by Leza Lowitz