Life Underwater by Matthew J. Metzger: 10/10 Stars



Ashraf never thought he could fall in love. So when he falls hard and fast for marine biologist Jamie Singer, it’s a shock to the system—in more ways than one.

Even if he can wrap his head around what love is and how relationships work, Ashraf’s not sure this is viable. He’s hydrophobic. And Jamie’s entire world revolves around the sea. What’s the point of trying if so much of Jamie’s life is inaccessible to Ashraf?

But Ashraf has vastly underestimated the pull of loving Jamie. For the first time, he wants to face the water, rather than flee from it. He has underestimated the power of love in making people brave, stupid, or a little bit of both.

Maybe it’s time to take a leap—and sink or swim.


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Overall Rating: 10/10 stars

Arthur’s Review: 5/5 Stars

There are a lot of things about this book to love. The relationship between Jamie and Ashraf is adorable and sweet and makes me so happy. Ashraf’s being stealth – we don’t see a lot of stealth trans characters. At least, I haven’t seen a lot of them. Jamie’s being nonbinary – their family treats them with such respect and it’s beautiful. Their niece coming up with a nonbinary way to refer to them was the cutest thing. The way that Jamie and Ashraf navigate Ashraf’s asexuality – how it’s never a question of Ashraf having to have sex for Jamie’s sake and Jamie respects Ashraf’s sexuality and never tries to force him into anything and doesn’t brush off his concerns.

And Ashraf’s hydrophobia is handled so well.

Due to trauma from his past, Ashraf can barely get near a pool, let along huge bodies of water. Jamie’s studies, however, have a lot to do with large bodies of water. Ashraf wants to be able to share such a huge part of Jamie’s life with them, but he isn’t sure if he’ll ever be able to get past that fear. But he is determined to work at it.

What I loved most about this was that Jamie’s love didn’t magically fix Ashraf. He wasn’t cured of his fear just because he loved Jamie and they loved him. He has to take slow steps towards his goal, and he deals with setbacks and worries, as anyone would, and I just felt the whole thing was handled so well.

Overall, this book was absolutely brilliant.

Laura’s Review: 5/5 Stars

Do you know that feeling when you finish a book and just want to go back to the beginning and read it all over again? That’s what Life Underwater was for me. I can definitely see many rereads of this lovely story in my future, and I can’t wait to get it in paperback – have you seen that cover?
I really love the way Matthew J Metzger writes relationships, and this one was no exception. As Jamie says at one moment, they and Ashraf aren’t supposed to fit, but they make each other better, they’re the best version of themselves when they’re together. And in my opinion that’s what relationships should be: you don’t need to like the same things and go everywhere together, but you need to be and feel better whenever you are with your significant other. That’s what Jamie and Ashraf mean to each other.
Also, there’s something that is quite uncommon in the romances I’ve read, and it’s that these characters communicate. When something comes up that makes Ashraf uncomfortable, he tells Jamie about it, they talk it through, and the find a solution. Do you know how sad it is that this is actually a pleasant surprise in a romance book? Matthew is a master at making his characters talk, and I love him for it.
And the rep? Gosh, it makes me so happy to see an asexual character I could identify with! I’ve identified with asexual characters before but most of them either compromised on having sex with their partner or didn’t mind if the partner slept with other people. Ashraf doesn’t want that, and Jamie gives up sex for them. The way they talked about it, and their relationship, it made me incredibly happy.
But there’s more! Ashraf is also aromantic. I don’t know where exactly on the spectrum he falls, though I’d probably say he’s gray aro, but seeing a character thinking about it, acknowledging it… Gosh, it made my aroace heart soar. I will always be grateful to this book for letting me see myself in its pages.
As is always the case with Matthew’s books, the trans rep is completely on point. I love the way Ashraf wants to control when and where he comes out, if he comes out at all. His identity is his to control, and I really appreciated that. I had never read an agender character before, and I completely fell for Jamie. They’re very happy in their own skin, and they shine whenever they’re on the page.
Finally, I loved the way Ashraf faith was incorporated into the story. It’s who he is, and it never feels preachy, which would have been a very easy trap to fall into. And I really appreciated the part of the story focused on Ashraf’s beating his hydrophobia. I loved how he talked with Jamie about it and how, in the end, he’s determined to beat it for himself and not for Jamie. Love helps, but it is not a cure.
Do yourself a favour and go get this book. The read it. And then read it again, and again, and again. That’s what I’ll be doing.

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