Barely Floating (Hardcover)
Natalia de la Cruz Rivera y Santiago (aka “Nat”) is used to being underestimated by the kids at the local pool who never think she can out-swim them just because she’s fat. And she’s only too happy to take their money after she proves them wrong! But Nat never underestimates herself which is why she knows she’d excel in The L.A. Mermaids, a Black-owned synchronized swim team. And the best part? Matching sequin swimsuits! One minor hiccup: her activist mom and professor dad forbid her to join a sport that - in their opinion - focuses too much on appearance. Not one to give up, Nat joins the team without their knowledge but soon starts sneaking around, neglecting her friendships, and forcing her cousin to lie for her… until everything spirals out of control. Nat’s self-determination and big heart make her an easy character to root for and Lilliam Rivera navigates nuances of feminism with ease. Secondary characters dealing with their own hurdles like helping family members with the bills and being outed give the novel even more dimension. Barely Floating - just like Nat - does it all!
- Kinsey Foreman, High Five Books (Florence, MA)— From NECBA Windows & Mirrors 2023 Short List
Natalia De La Cruz Rivera y Santiago, also known as Nat, was swimming neighborhood kids out of their money at the local Inglewood pool when her life changed. The LA Mermaids performed, emerging out of the water with matching sequined swimsuits, and it was then that synchronized swimming stole her heart.
The problem? Her activist mom and professor dad think it's a sport with too much emphasis on looks--on being thin and white. Nat grew up the youngest in a house full of boys, so she knows how to fight for what she wants, often using her anger to fuel her. People often underestimate her swimming skills when they see her stomach rolls, but she knows better than to worry about what people think. Still, she feels more like a submarine than a mermaid, but she wonders if she might be both.
Barely Floating explores what it means to sparkle in your skin, build community with those who lift you up, and keep floating when waters get rough.
★ “Rivera’s layered, sparkling middle-grade debut is Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ (2015) by way of Lisa Fipps’ Starfish (2021). . . . Display this empowering novel with Esther Williams’ classic Million Dollar Mermaid.”
—Booklist, starred review
★ "Rivera brings a freshness to a conventional middle-grade story with flowing prose that effortlessly captures the complicated and often conflicting emotions of being a tween, especially one who has to face microaggressions for being fat, brown, Latina, and not rich."
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
★ “In laugh-out-loud, blunt prose, Rivera cultivates a touching and unapologetically positive interpretation of one tween’s desire to break the mold.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A body-positive story of growing up that’s sure to make a splash"
Booklist Best Books of 2023
Kobo Best Books of 2023 (Kids)