About the book
Breathing Underwater is a contemporary young adult novel by Alex Flinn. The book was published by Harper Teen on 5th June 2011. Breathing Underwater is 272 pages long.
At his high school, Nick is one of the popular kids. He’s wealthy, intelligent and popular but no one really knows the truth about what he has to endure at home. Meeting Caitlin is the one thing Nick believes can change his life. As the pair quickly fall in love, Nick begins to realise that his life isn’t exactly what he thought it was. His father is the one thing he is terrified of but it seems he is more like him than he ever could have believed.
What I thought
I have previously really enjoyed Alex Flinn’s other books, especially her fairy tale retellings and I wanted to read more from her. This one is a contemporary novel and a stand-alone.
Breathing Underwater begins with Nick going to court. His ex-girlfriend Caitlin is taking the stand against him, accusing him of hitting her, and after being found guilty, he is sentenced to family violence classes and must write 500 words a week in a journal. Flinn wastes no time in getting right to it in this book. Nick comes across as an arrogant, full of himself teenager who doesn’t want to admit that he has done something wrong which is why he ends up having to write a journal. To begin with, I didn’t like Nick at all and I wasn’t sure that I was ever going to considering what his attitude in general was like.
However, Breathing Underwater is narrated through Nick’s voice and through the use of his journal which means we get to understand the events in both the present and the past. I really enjoyed the way Flinn told the story as it meant that my opinions about Nick constantly changed. Although not a reason for hitting someone, we get to see how Nick’s home life affects him and his decisions. His father is a violent man and Nick never blames him for his own actions although he does begin to realise that certain genes are hereditary.
Reading Nick’s journal entries made it possible to see how he went from being completely in love with Caitlin, worshipping her, to being verbally and physically abuse towards her. He beings to get possessive, not wanting her to be friends with certain people, not wanting her to dress in particular clothes and pretty much wanting her to do everything he says. We get to see just how horrible Nick is to Caitlin and how he never sees what he is doing to her. Even when friends tell him he’s being horrible to her, he shrugs it off and ignores them.
These journal entries are mixed in with Nick’s time at his violence classes. The teacher there, Mario, was a fantastic character and one who spoke a lot of sense. Along with Nick, there are plenty of other guys in the class and over time, they have to learn to differences between right and wrong and to accept the way that they have behaved. The whole moral of this novel is to take responsibility for your actions and Flinn expresses that strongly. The classes and the journal take Nick out of his old situation and force him to look at what went wrong and what he could do to change his life.
Overall, Breathing Underwater is a pretty emotional book and one which is quite hard to stomach at times. However, I really enjoyed reading it and look forward to more from Alex Flinn.