Barely Floating

A dazzling story full of heart about how one twelve-year-old channels her rage into synchronized swimming dreams from The Education of Margot Sanchez author Lilliam Rivera.

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.


"In laugh-out-loud, blunt prose, Rivera cultivates a touching and unapologetically positive interpretation of one tween’s desire to break the mold."

Publisher's Weekly, STARRED Review!

"Rivera’s layered, sparkling middle-grade debut is Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ (2015) by way of Lisa Fipps’ Starfish (2021)....Well-integrated subplots involving a fractured friendship and a character coping with being outed add more depth to an already excellent story."

Booklist, STARRED Review!

"Nat’s radical self-acceptance is a beautiful example for readers: Her unapologetic self-love and empathy make her a compelling character. A body-positive story of growing up that’s sure to make a splash."


"Hand this book to angry kids, to fat kids who deserve to see someone liking their own body, or really to any kids who are looking for a fun read."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, STARRED Review!

"This compelling character-driven novel will leave readers wanting to spend more time with Nat and her family."

School Library Journal

"Barely Floating is a heartwarming and hilarious middle grade novel about a girl with an unforgettably fierce spirit who goes after what she wants."

Latinx In Publishing

"Barely Floating is one of those books that’s going to resonate with readers from all walks of life — swimmers or not."

Cracking the Cover

"All about body positivity in female strength"

Horn Book