Breathing Underwater (by Julia Green)

8 07 2011

Freya is 14 when she revisits the island where her older brother Joe died a year before. You wouldn’t really guess from the pastel airy-dreamy cover of this book that this is a story about a girl coming to terms with her brother’s death and having to deal with all the things that make a 14-year-old girl’s life complicated. Freya has doubts about her parents’ marriage, doubts about her own role in Joe’s death; doubts about Joe’s motives the day the accident happened; doubts about her own budding  love life (which boy should she like? The Joe lookalike Danny who’s honest, sincere and seems to have feelings for her) or Matt (the boyfriend of her new friend Izzy), who makes her feel things she never felt before?

All in all, the cover is seriously misleading the reader into thinking this will be a light and forgettable summer read. In a way, it really is light and fluffy. It’s only about 200 or so pages, so ideal beach material. Moreover, Julia Green’s style often feels fairly dreamy (the first person narrator and the present tense of the story largely take care of that), but the story itself and the writing is never too dreamy not to be taken seriously, or to forget easily.

Breathing Underwater is a nicely executed and touching coming of age story about a girl dealing with loss, grief and first love jitters. A summer read, yes, but not one to forget quickly.

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