Mika Arlington was supposed to spend the summer after her junior year shadowing her marine biologist parents at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but when her estranged grandmother randomly shows up on the doorstep one day, those plans are derailed. Because Grandma Betty isn’t here to play nice—she is cranky, intolerant of Mika’s mixed-race-couple parents, and oh yeah she has Alzheimer’s and is out of money. While Mika’s family would rather not deal with Grandma Betty, they don’t have much choice. And despite Mika’s protests, she is roped into caring for a person that seems impossible to have compassion for. And if that wasn’t hard enough, Mika must train the new guy at her pet shop job who wants to be anywhere else, and help a friend through her own family crisis. Something’s gotta a give, but whichever ball Mika drops means losing someone she loves. Not exactly a recipe for Best Summer Ever—or is it?– Goodreads
Mika is having the summer of her life. She has a good job at the local pet store, she is interning with her parents at the aquarium, she is happy. Then a new guy, Dylan, starts at work and he doesn’t care about the store and that effects her because she cares and if you’re going to do a job, you do it well. And, if things couldn’t get worse, her grandmother appears on her door step. Her very racist grandmother.
It is Mika’s dad’s mom and we quickly find out that Mika’s dad is not close to his family, for reasons she’s not even fully aware of. As the reader we quickly find out on of the reasons is the fact that Mika’s grandmother, Betty, does not approve of the fact he married a Japanese woman and the fact the Mika looks just like her mother. Mika wants to fight this and state that she’s actually a lot like her father, but she knows it’s futile.
Mom prepared me for prejudice from strangers, not from my own blood. How am I supposed to handle this?–eARC page 35
Mika doesn’t want to be helping her grandmother and she makes that clear to her grandmother with her tone and attitude. It’s actually a bit hard to read because although you understand where Mika is coming from, you also understand where her grandmother is coming from. Her grandmother might be racist and a horrible person; however, she is still someone who wants to be loved. Mika tries to spend a lot of time caring for her goldfish, the one thing she sees as a constant in her life. Until she realizes how much goldfish and her grandmother are a lot alike. What’s the point in loving something if it’s going to forget about you?
Then, there is the guy. Dylan, who while he’s an asshole, he does try. Fake relationship trope is one of my favorite things ever and Whipple does a fresh take on it. Mika does not want to be involved, but because she has a sweet spot she does agree to help him. What I enjoyed out of it was her father’s reaction, I found him to be hilarious throughout the novel, and when he finds out about Dylan his reaction is priceless.
“A guy?” Dad says with too much interest. “How did you meet a guy who has access to Cypress Point? Are you dating him? Can I get in on this?”– eARC page 114
Originally, for the longest time, I never felt overly sympathetic for Dylan, I can see why Mika did. Particularly for part of their golf date. And then, there is a particular scene where he poors his heart out to her and I’m too busy crying over it Fish Out of Water on my lunch break and I’m having all these feels about a boy I did not expect to be sympathetic for.
My heart also lurched when Mika had a moment that holding a grudge at her grandmother wasn’t going to get Mika anywhere. It was easier to forgive her and apologize. And oh, my heart during the apology. Mika had so much grown through when her grandmother first showed up to the end of the book. She not only grew when it came to her grandmother, but also her relationship with her parents, her friends, and even how she viewed love.
My only complaint would be there is a side story with one of Mika’s bffs and I would have loved to see more resolution with her; however, I understand that the real world isn’t always tied neatly with a bow and I believe that Whipple highlighted that well. Including how the book ended in general, even though I wanted more of Mika and Dylan, I get it. I get that their ending is perfect for them. Natalie Whipple is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is smart and full of realistic characters. And Fish Out of Water is one of her strongest yet.