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Breathing Under Water is a beautifully written, lyrically told tale that takes a tragic and heartbreaking turn. The language is rich and poetic, immersing the reader until they too, drown in the story. I was with Grace as she began her dark, downward spiral, dealing with her grief in a manner that was both destructive to her and the relationships and lives of those she cared for. I was her conscience, wishing she would see what she was doing to herself, wishing that someone would step in and say, “Enough!”
Grace was born 12 minutes after her brother and for her whole life she has felt to be living in his shadow. He was always the golden child, the poster boy surfer, the glint of pride in his father’s eye. But not only that, he was also the spirit, the heart of the family, the spark that kept them all together. So, when tragedy strikes, everything begins to fall apart, starting with Grace…
With its strong Australian vibes, and the passion the prose shows for the ocean, this is sure to strike a chord with teenagers down under. It is emotionally powerful, eloquently written and deeply immersive. For teenagers, I believe, it is important to see how shattered one’s life can become – but how it is still possible to begin to pick up the pieces, mend the cracks and seek renewal. It is a story of grief, and how we deal with it. It is a story of love, and what challenges it. And it is a story of humanity.
It is at times wild, and does feature drugs and sexual references (although those are fairly subtle), as well as some pretty dark themes. As such it is more fitting to a somewhat-mature teen audience – but fans of John Green and Melina Marchetta should devour it greedily. The writing style, likewise, takes a little getting used to – at times it is more poetry than prose – but I found it an evocative and compelling read.
Reviewed by Angela Oliver
Breathing Under Water
by Sophie Hardcastle
Published by Hachette Australia