Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Upstream” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  196 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Marty’s small town in Alaska is the most beautiful place in the world. There she and her beloved boyfriend, Steven, can walk through fields of fireweed, explore the wild, and tie pink floozy fishing lures to catch the salmon that swim upstream. But when she starts her senior year, Marty must return to school by herself. Without Steven. Something happened during the summer ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 2nd 2009 by Wendy Lamb Books (first published May 10th 2005)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Upstream, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Upstream

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Hannah Fabry
Sep 30, 2012 Hannah Fabry rated it it was amazing
"Upstream" was a very well written book, and it was hard to put down. I really enjoyed the Alaskan setting description! The setting of the book reminded me of my family that lives in Alaska. The main character, Marty, and her sister have a very strong relationship. I relate to the main character and her sister's relationship with my brother and myself. I really enjoyed that the book stayed more of a personal story rather than a drama. "Upstream" is about a highschool girl's boyfriend that dies d ...more
Oct 20, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Melissa Lion’s Upstream is deceptively simple. Yes, it’s an easy read, but beneath the smooth prose is a deep story of sorrow and survival. Marty is grieving the death of her boyfriend Steven, and trying to protect the painful secret surrounding his death.

Even though the main character is coping with the death of a loved one, Upstream is not an entirely gloomy tale. The reader gets to watch Marty heal in various ways. Throughout the story, Marty’s relationships with her mother, sisters, father,
May 06, 2016 Katie rated it really liked it
Shelves: mine
I really enjoyed this, mainly because of the setting, which is a small town in Alaska. For me, the relations between the characters and their development stood out more than the story about Steven. I especially enjoyed the relation between Martha an Katherine, a Californian women who buys the old movie theatre. This book touched on the feeling of simultaneously searching for new experiences and wanting to stay in your familiar and safe place very well. Very reletable, even though I do not live i ...more
Mercedes Tellez
Sep 30, 2013 Mercedes Tellez rated it it was amazing
This book takes place up in Alaska! This high school girl named Marty is like any normal girl. Her family is made up of two other girl siblings and a mother that works for a women's road construction union thing. Her father is in the Coast Guard but is never really around for the girls' life. She goes to school & has crushes. One of her crushes, Steven, she eventually falls in love with. Steven would be described as the son every father wanted. He can hunt, fish, fix cars etc. He in return ...more
Sarah H.
Nov 08, 2007 Sarah H. rated it it was amazing
Upstream is quite a good book. The main character is this small town Alaskan girl named Marty. She is going to start her senior year of high school by herself without her boyfriend. Know one knows exactly what happened to him. Only Marty knows what actually happened. She was the only one that was there that saw him die. She wants to leave her beautiful Alaskan town to leave everything behind. Just to forget everything that happened that awful day. You want to keep on reading to find out what act ...more
Jun 02, 2008 Lily rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone!
I really enjoyed this book a lot because it had so many metaphors and deeper meanings. I think that this book was also extremely well written. I highly recommend the author, Melissa Lion, I believe that her writing style is extremely unique and fun to read. One of my favorite things about this book is the metaphor made my comparing a whale to the concept of moving on and forgiving. It is actually an interesting concept because the main character, Marty, met her boyfriend because of a whale that ...more
Conan Tigard
Nov 13, 2015 Conan Tigard rated it really liked it
I felt for Marty, I truly did. For anyone to loose a love suddenly must be very hard. Upstream is an interesting tale of loss and coping with a little mystery thrown in to boot. Melissa Lion pens an interesting story about how a young woman would handle this situation.

What I liked about the storytelling was the way that little bits of the mystery of Steven's death were slowly revealed. We never get the full picture until the end of the book, which keep the reader guessing. what happened to Steve
Maria Devito
Jun 10, 2014 Maria Devito rated it really liked it
This book shows the way of a young struggling teenager in Alaska. First off I didn't like how short the book was I thought that maybe if it was longer they could fit in a lot more about Martha's past and life.
What I liked about the book is that Martha is just a normal teenager with a middle class family that just wants to move on from a tragedy that happened to her. when Martha's boyfriend died she was the only one with him and as expected she is investigated for the possibility that it might h
Sommer Ann McCullough
Sep 16, 2007 Sommer Ann McCullough rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Looking for nature, life, relationships
I loved the messages in this book. It's one of those novels that even after you've turned the last page and returned it to the library, the haunting storyline will pop up in your mind months later. The achingly true voice of the heroine attaches to your soul, and you feel her struggles within you. You can tell that she is real, that her problems are hard to deal with, that she had many more issues that just life to deal with. Incorprating many sub-plots including a boyfriend who died, a new woma ...more
Jose E. Santiago
Mar 08, 2014 Jose E. Santiago rated it really liked it
Really sad book that would help the reader see things different. The main character, Marty, lost her boyfriend. No one knows why, at the beginning but as you read to through the novel Marty reveals things you don't expect to find out and that would answer your question on why Steven, Marty's boyfriend, died. However, she doesn't listen to what people say and continues with her normal life. She meets new people, people that know how she feels, but at the end of the day she ends up recovering from ...more
Breanna P.
this book was about a girl who's boyfriend died and and nobody knows exactly what happend to him accept marty! S he wont tell anyone she lives in a nice small town and wants to leave to leave her child hood and good memories behind because it all reminds her of him.

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like a mystery and wonder what is going to happen then find out at the end. The best thing is about this book is that there is no clues or hints on what will happen at the end of the b
Katie Herring
Sep 17, 2012 Katie Herring rated it liked it
I've read this before and I knew it was sad but I didn't really remember exactly what happened. It all started coming back to me as I read it again though.

I was also fighting back tears the entire time. They poured out eventually, sad books will do that to you.

I found it to be much more emotional for me this this time around, mostly because I know Katherine's right when she says, "Someone always has to leave."

I know who it would be and I don't want that to happen. Hence the tears.
Kate Lacy
Jul 03, 2008 Kate Lacy rated it it was amazing
Lion is an energetic writer---she does not wait for us to rephrase her thoughts. First person, we are well within the character of Marty and lost in her sorrows. This is not a book for the impatient, nor for teens younger than 13-14.
The ending, well, you judge. Neither happy nor complete, the ending is what it is. Reality and years of lives move ever forward. Do not miss this book if you love YA stories.
Megan M.
Nov 27, 2007 Megan M. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to have a good cry
This was a really good book. It takes a few hours to read and it is a good cry.
It takes place in the beautiful setting of Alaska. It's about this girl's boyfriend who dies and she keeps having memories of them together. You don't know how he dies exactly, but it reveals it throughout the book. She is depressed during the whole thing, but with her two other sisters there, her mom, and a really good friend from California, she gets through the horror of her life.
Sep 01, 2007 Carrie rated it it was ok
Shelves: y-fiction, sisters, z-2007
I checked this out because the cover photo was pretty. Otherwise, it's worth reading solely for the relationship between the sisters (I think I could count on one hand the number of good sisterly relationships I've read) and you know, small town, quirky Alaska is always fun, but the rest of it was kind of blah.
Apr 01, 2009 Apsara rated it did not like it
This was great in the beginning and then it just went mediocre.I felt obligated to finish the book because I had to know if the main character made it through. I definitely felt a connection with the family and somehow you find yourself hoping and cheering them on. I definitely don't recommend this as a must read but it's a simple no brainer book.
Mar 29, 2008 Jess rated it liked it
I'm not quite sure how I came to pick this one up; it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the book, but once I did I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. I appreciated that the story never turned into a big drama, and stayed a smaller, personal story. The ending was well-played, and the sense of setting was impressive.
Feb 04, 2016 Salsabrarian rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, grief, death, alaska
Like the salmon that struggle upstream to get to their birthplace, Marty pushes through her grief after losing her boyfriend in an accident. Her family and the solid Alaska wilderness keep her grounded and in the world as she finds her way to a measure of peace and acceptance. Quiet but powerful; clean writing doesn't waste words.
MaryAnn Harlan
Jul 23, 2008 MaryAnn Harlan rated it liked it
I was wishing I had a blog entry on this to reference but I don't. I preferred Swollen but truthfully I was surprised when I learned they were written by the same author. I think Upstream handles grief very well. For a slim book it packed a punch.
Jay Lopez
May 09, 2014 Jay Lopez rated it really liked it
Great book, picked it up and finished it the same day. A simple yet so heart wrenching story. Martha's heart yearns for closure and does not get it until she accepts his death. But overall great book, has such a calm effect and overall essence.
Jul 25, 2009 Lori rated it really liked it
This book was thought-provoking, and filled with an underlying tension. You want to know the whole story, but you don't want to know the whole story. A wonderful book that shows how strong young adults can be and explores the importance of family and friends.

I really did like this book.
Stephanie Jackson
Mar 05, 2013 Stephanie Jackson rated it really liked it
Started reading this back in 2005 when it came out - the public library used to send out snippets of new books. It's kind of haunted me. So I decided to read it and it was really good. The images are lush and now I want to go to Alaska. Pretty gripping story...
Christina Borgoyn
Mar 02, 2013 Christina Borgoyn rated it it was amazing
I loved the language in this book and how it was used to engage the reader.
Oct 08, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teen-reality
This is a quiet little book abotu grief. I hand sell this book often adn my more advanced teen readers have liked it. Cool female relationships, strong women, beutiful descriptions of alaska.
Mar 09, 2010 Christina rated it it was amazing
If you like Speak, and Story of a Girl, this might be another option for you!
Aug 13, 2009 Micaela rated it did not like it
I felt like this was mostly just a depressing book, with a depressing main character, with a depressing problem. The ending didn't really sum up anything either.
May 29, 2009 Joanne rated it really liked it
Loved the descriptions of Alaska. Great chaacters, they seem real.
Stephanie A.
Not bad. You don't see too many contemporary YA novels set in Alaska.
Jul 23, 2008 Zoe rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: alaskans, grief counselors, sisters
Recommended to Zoe by: melissa lion
A lovely, haunting book with interesting characters, complex relationships, and moments of quiet, subtle beauty. I feel lucky to know the woman who wrote it.
Jun 20, 2011 Riley rated it did not like it
i seriously hated this book, i was bored the whole time. it had no plot what so ever. i felt i needed to finish it because i thought it would get better or something. it obviouly didnt!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Serious Girls
  • The Perfect Distance
  • Where I Want to Be
  • All Rivers Flow To The Sea
  • Stained
  • The Last Domino
  • A Heart Divided
  • Lessons in Taxidermy: A Compendium of Safety and Danger
  • Wrecked
  • A Thief in the House of Memory
  • Kipling's Choice
  • King of the Pygmies
  • A Room on Lorelei Street
  • The Shape of Water
  • Redeeming the Rogue (Chambers Trilogy, #3)
  • Light Years
  • Picture Perfect
  • Pinned
Melissa Lion is a novelist and book critic. Her two novels, Swollen and Upstream were published by Random House. Her third novel is expected out next year. Her work has appeared in Santa Monica Review, Other Voices and an anthology titled, The Crucifix is Down. Upstream was recently optioned for a motion picture.

More about Melissa Lion...

Share This Book

“The sky is black, so rich and thick it looks warm. It feels as if I can see for miles into that blackness, the stars glimmering white, and as my eyes adjust, there are millions of stars. Billions. And it is time to move on. I have no choice.” 0 likes
More quotes…