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


3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,319 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
Ivy Breedlove's family is driving her crazy. Generations of Breedloves have been prominent lawyers and her relatives expect her to follow suit. "We'll make her a lawyer yet!" they pronounce at a family reunion. Well, not if Ivy has her say. But how do you have your say when the voices surrounding you are so loud? Ivy's passion for the past provides an answer. As she works ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published May 24th 1999 by Putnam Juvenile
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 Backwater, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Sarah Jane yes. I read it in 6th grade. The romance in it is extremely light boyfriend/girlfriend type stuff and not even a large part of the book
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book about a young woman trying to carve out a place for herself in an enduring family. Ivy loves history and has researched her ancestors, all of them characters who could have books written about them. Her aunt Jo is a highly introverted woman who forsook her family for peace in the mountains. There are so many great female characters in here. Ivy is flawed and believable and bookish. This is a story about embracing your family's past whilst remaining true to yourself and y ...more
Jun 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know, I can't say it was that good of a book, I just really, really liked it.
Nicole Norton
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult-lit
I enjoyed this book; yes, yes, I did. I enjoyed reading about a character who wanted to be a historian and who felt connected to her ancestors because my family and religion is very into genealogy and learning about your ancestors. Also, this book has wilderness adventure in it for all of you explorers out there because the main character sets off (with a guide) into the frozen wilderness to find her long-lost aunt that no one has heard from in years.

Language: 0
Violence: 0
Sexual References: 0
Rebecca McNutt
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Backwater was a lot more interesting and gripping than I expected. The story of a girl with a pre-assigned dream of "lawyer" from her parents, this book is really great.
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written for young adults, so an easy read from that perspective, but one I thoroughly enjoyed mainly for the writer's handling of the powerful impact nature can have on individuals. Most books I've read that deal with what I call "wilderness transformations" start with a protagonist who is so psychologically messed up that I can't relate to them and can't completely buy into the personality changes they experience supposedly on account of deep immersion in nature. This book, however, took an ave ...more
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gem of a book, short but meaningful. Goes in deep about family stuff and acceptance. Reccomended to teen girls, because it's not just some hotshot book about cheerleaders and true love.
Mar 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I felt so similar to the main character in many of the quirks. Loved her fight to do family history.
Poppy C
In the novel Backwater, by Joan Bauert The story tells of a teen girl named Ivy, who has always felt like the oddball in her home full of lawyers, as she has a yearning for history that she can’t explain. Soon, she learns of another oddball family member who ran away from home. Joan then goes on a crazy mountain climbing adventure to meet her long lost aunt, who’s quite different than the rest of her family…

Reading this book, I had mixed emotions. Because it’s not my style of reading, I didn’t e
Maggie Menkus
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Joan's earlier books, and I can see that she already displays the talent to develop compelling protagonists that reveal courage of conviction. This young girl, Ivy Breedlove, is born into a family of fierce lawyers and she wants to be a historian - her father fights her every step of the way. In hopes of finding answers to this conflict, Ivy journeys into the hills to seek out her aunt who became a hermit early in life. And she does find answers but not in the way you would imagin ...more
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1st-quarter-log
This book is okay, but the characters are interesting. She also wrote the book Rules of the Road, which is pretty good too.
Max Maxwell
Feb 08, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody... don't read crap like this
Recommended to Max by: It was part of my Young Adult Lit course
This was average. Basic young adult lit chick drama. Very, very annoying cover. Either that photoshopped chickadee is the size of a bumblebee, or the girl's head is 17 inches wide. Your call.

[From my teacher notes:]

The key conflicts work on two levels, literally and symbolically. Literally, there are conflicts between Ivy and her family and Jo and her family. But these conflicts represent philosophical conflicts. For example, Ivy’s conflict with Fiona, described in detail in the start of the boo
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a little slow, but still interesting. The theme is very prominent. The main character is very secretive to her family which constantly causes us as readers to want her to succeed. She goes on a journey to find someone who is like her, so she has the confidence to realize her passion and share it with others.
Shannon Haderlie
Great adventure read. Exciting and personal. Intertwined with humor and family. Worth the read!
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teen readers (but adults would enjoy it, too).
I just reread this book, and I felt it only fair to rewrite my review because what I learn changes every time I read a book. So prepare yourself for a long review: *Takes deep breath*

Um... wow. Do I use that expression enough? Joan Bauer is a genius and nothing less. Her writing is witty, beautiful, and full of the main character's voice. I love the way it's so simple, and yet it's what the story calls for. Sure, she uses a lot of short sentences, but it makes the story crisp clear and potent. T
May 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing

Despite the fact that I was worried about the "voice" in the first paragraph, it grew on me and was a wonderful book.

Probably for ages 13+. Not anything too mature in it, but just because I don't think the interest would be there.

Absolutely wonderful story, great characters and well-written. A girl in a family of lawyers is obsessed with family history (and history in general), and has to show herself and that family that it's okay to be different.

This little book (185 pages) was abso
Stephanie Kenner
Dec 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Family History/Misfits

Ivy Breedlove comes from a family of lawyers who expect her to follow in the family footsteps. The problem is, Ivy isn't interested in becoming a lawyer. She loves her family, but has always felt like she doesn't quite fit in. She is, however, interested in family history and has been attempting to compile the history of her family into a book, but it can't be completed without her Aunt Josephine's story. Jo didn't quite fit into the family either and left many years earlie
Dec 10, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chick-lit
I went into this book unfamiliar with the author, or anything else she had written. The cover looked good (i know, i know) and the snippet on the back seemed semi-interesting, so I gave it a go. I felt like it was more a short story (or the cliff notes)or a smaller part of a larger story that could have been told. Yes, I understand the story is really about Ivy finding her Aunt Josephine (and herself) but there was ample opportunity to explore other characters and expand upon their relationships ...more
Ivy Breedlove is a teenage girl who is struggling to make her family listen to her thoughts and wishes, instead of what they think she is thinking. Ivy would rather be a historian than a lawyer, like almost every other person of her large extended family.

To fulfill this dream of becoming a historian, she is trying to get all of her family's history down, even though only one other living relative supports her project.

While tracking down family stories, Ivy must track down her reclusive aunt who
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
3.5 While the writing and style is definitely up to Joan Bauer's best standards, the storyline didn't excite or interest me as much as some other books of hers. Ivy is stuck in a family of lawyers. The Breedloves are all lawyers. The problem is that Ivy doesn't want to be a lawyer when she grows up; she wants to be a historian. And she gets some good practice and experience while researching her family's history. It is there that Ivy begins to yearn to learn more about her mysterious Aunt Joseph ...more
Julienne Lalog
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ivy is a Breedlove. And Breedloves become lawyers, no ifs, ands, or buts. But Ivy has big dreams, dreams of becoming a historian. Dreams that her family do not approve of. Determined to piece together the long history of Breedloves, Ivy hikes to a secluded area in the mountains in the hopes of reuniting with her mysterious aunt who dissapeared many years before. Ivy went into the mountains expecting to find her aunt, but what she left with worth far much more than she would have ever imagined. ...more
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved all the characters in this book and it was a great story. There were a couple of things that bothered me though and I'm giving them here with a *spoiler alert*:

1. There were no Breedloves on the Mayflower. And no woman buried her husband at sea during the Mayflower voyage. There was only 1 passenger that died during the Mayflower voyage and he was a crew member. So when Ivy said she came from Mayflower stock and told the story of her ancestor, there was no historical truth to
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: girls grade 8 and up
Shelves: young-adult, fiction
What I loved about this book is that I felt such a unique calmness while reading it. The story is about a high school student that is struggling to learn the true history of her family, particularly that of her dead mother and estranged aunt. She sets out on a quest to find her aunt and learns a lot about herself.

The story is interesting, the main character is extremely likable and well developed, and the story leaves you feeling good. I would describe the book as very "soothing."

My only compla
Jeni Enjaian
A review from my old blog...

I think I have found a new favorite author.

Bauer enchants with this novel. I have to admit though that I felt an extra affinity for the main character, Ivy, because of her ardent love of history. Ivy loves history even more than I do and with a dedication that I would love to have.

Ivy Breedlove, a lover of history in a family of lawyers, attempts to create a family history for the birthday of a beloved aunt. She battles the expectations of her entire family that all B
Finally, Joan Bauer has a main character whose after my own heart. Ivy Breedlove comes from a family of lawyer, but her dream is to be a historian. She has been busy composing her family's history for her great Aunt's 80th birthday party. While do her research, she realizes there is one person no one in the family likes to talk about: her Aunt Josephine. Determined to find her aunt to get her side of the story, Ivy tracks her down to a cabin way up in the mountains.

I'm clapping for Ms. Bauer
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen, own-print
Born into a family where everyone is expected to become lawyers, Ivy has never quite been accepted. Rather than wanting to practice law, she wants to be a historian and her current project is working on her own family's history. As part of that project, she decides to go find her long-lost aunt Jo, the last person who defied family tradition. Jo has secluded herself in the mountains, but Ivy is determined to find her and hear her story, even if she has to hire a wilderness guide and hike through ...more
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't decide how to describe this book. It wasn't amazing, but something about it kept me interested until the end. It is about this girl named Ivy Breedlove who is stuck in a family of lawyers. In the Breedlove family, it is a big deal if you don't become a lawyer. Ivy wants nothing more than to be a historian and not a lawyer. Of course her father hates that and without a mother there to guide her, she often feels lost. So she turns to her aunt Tib who is a retired history teacher and togeth ...more
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to JoDean by: K
Shelves: girls-book-list
Great little book for 13-14 yo girls. Modern without being faddish.

Some great quotes:

"We put you in situations you've never been in before so the true sense of your grit and courage can come out."

"I thought of my female ancestors slaving over the pot and kettle, getting up before dawn to prepare breakfast for the family, spinning yarn, making the coarse fabric called 'homespun.' Women had to keep the fire going in the big open fireplaces. Everything they did took time, strength, and patience. If
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always enjoyed Joan Bauer's books. She writes a lot of young adult fiction, and I've been reading her ever since sixth grade. This book is no different from all her other ones. Her main character is a teenager with a certain interest, and through that interest, it becomes clear the kind of person he or she is. And I'm not saying that her characters define themselves by what they do, but they have their passion because of the kind of person they are, and that's what I really like about her b ...more
Fred Pollock
May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tweens, mighty-girls
Once again Joan Bauer has created a spunky, smart, and independent main character that you'd love to be best friends with! Ivy's family has great expectations of what her future holds. Everyone in the Breedlove family grew up to become lawyers...well everyone worth anything, anyone who isn't "backwater." That's what they call people who aren't as smart or as sophisticated or as...well whatever they are. The problem is that Ivy doesn't want to become a lawyer. She wants to be an historian. For he ...more
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating: 4.5

This book is very self-explanatory, but it connects with almost everyone. We all have something that we want so badly to do but can’t because of disapproval from parents, peers, or others. Pushing through something like that can be one of the hardest things you have to do. This book probably means something different to everybody. I really like Joan Bauer as an author and she never fails to disappoint me with her work. The funny thing about this book is that I can’t even say i
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Shadows of Ghadames
  • What Are Friends For? (Friendship Ring, #4)
  • What's in a Name
  • Crusader
  • Journey of the Sparrows
  • Alice on the Outside  (Alice, #11)
  • Undercover
  • What If . . . All the Boys Wanted You (What If... (Quality))
  • There's a Girl in My Hammerlock
  • Frenchtown Summer
  • Deal with It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a gURL
  • Bucking the Sarge
  • Here Today
  • The Alison Rules
  • Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone: The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival
  • Ryan White: My Own Story
  • Triple Shot Bettys in Love (Triple Shot Bettys, #2)
  • Swear to Howdy

July 12, 1951 - I was born at eleven A.M., a most reasonable time, my mother often said, and when the nurse put me in my mother's arms for the first time I had both a nasty case of the hiccups and no discernible forehead (it's since grown in). I've always believed in comic entrances.

As I grew up in River Forest, Illinois, in the 1950's, I seem to remember a
More about Joan Bauer...

Share This Book

“If you worry about every little thing you're going to have one thoroughly miserable life.” 13 likes
More quotes…