Book Reviews

Review: Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

I finished Turtle Under Ice in a few hours. I couldn’t stop reading. Sure it’s in verse which certainly makes it easy. However, Turtle Under Ice is lyrical, poignant, and moving.


Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive.

But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone.

Haunting and evocative—and told in dual perspectives—Turtle Under Ice examines two sisters frozen by grief as they search for a way to unthaw.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

This dual POV verse novel is stunning. It’s a lyrical portrayal of grief, sisterhood, and moving on. Turtle Under Ice is haunting. Like the chilling breeze in a winter forest blanketed in snow. There’s beauty to its words, surrounded by a setting that is both gorgeous with a hint of something deeper. A stillness of the forest. I adored 500 Words Or Less and del Rosario maintains that same commitment to characters in Turtle Under Ice.

Turtle Under Ice is moving. Telling us a story about grief, Rowena and Ariana demonstrate the ways grief can push us away, further from ourselves. It changes the molecules of our body. We each process the piercing cold differently. How can we still be the same sisters we were before when we don’t even know who we are anymore? I could deeply empathize with the ways the sisters drift away from each other in Turtle Under the Ice. It isn’t a conscious departure. It’s that steady drifting away of ice pulled away by different currents.

When the ones we love grow into people we never though they could. Into people we see, but don’t recognize. In Turtle Under Ice we sink deeply into both Rowena and Ariana’s perspectives. Seeing how they process their grief differently, see their sisterhood relationship floating away from them. Rowena’s feeling of directionless without the guiding forces of Ariana. The pressure Ariana feels to be the bigger sister, the one with answers, trimmed edges and pressed lines. It’s about the image we show to the world versus the one we hold tight within ourselves. Which creeps at the corner of our eyes, reflected in passing glimpses in the mirror.


There’s this idea that we can hold onto something forever. To fight the forces of time and distance against seemingly insurmountable odds. To somehow triumph where all others have failed. Turtle Under Ice is about the process of grief. Whether we give it voice or keep it locked away, building steam that curls under doors and floats away from dark houses.

Turtle Under Ice is full of beautiful poignant images of snow, empty cigar boxes, and guitar cases. Full of moments that speak in the language of sisters, incomprehensible to others. Grief is like an injury that never really heels. Even if it feels sudden at the moment, it never stops hurting, aching with longing.

Find Turtle under Ice on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite verse novel?

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