Surface Tension, by Meg McKinlay

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe
‘The day that I was born, they drowned my town’ is the opening sentence of Surface Tension. Who could resist a book with an opening like that? I certainly couldn’t. I immediately wanted to know why the town was buried and correlation the two facts had with each other in the story and I’m sure other readers will too.

Told in the first person, it also sets up questions about why Cassie feels out of place in her family. The book gives a lot of emphasis to the swimming of laps Cassie needs to maintain for her health. In the end her swimming becomes a crucial key in the story. When Cassie swims in the lake instead of the pool she finds an intriguing mystery. As summer wear on and the drought, with the help of her friend Liam they set out to uncover the secret drowned under the lake. Liam is another multi -layered character with his own secrets and problems.

As well as a good plot I loved some of the descriptive writing in this book, like this one describing the drought. ‘It had been a dry winter, a dry few years, and now summer was sinking its teeth in and the lake was, well, sinking.’ Another is the description of her leg ‘strobing with pain.’ But the main thing that keeps you reading the pages is the mystery to be uncovered. Meg McKinlay manages to keep adding layers to the mystery and keep the tension in the book right to end of the book.

This story could be read by competent readers from 8 upwards, but there is enough drama, interest and characterisation that it could easily extend to readers of early high school ages.

Surface Tension

Surface Tension, by Meg McKinlay
Walker Books, 2011
Paperback RRP $15.99

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.