Review: Breathing Underwater by Abbey Lee Nash

Breathing Underwater by Abbey Lee Nash

Breathing Underwater
Abbey Lee Nash
Holiday House
Published March 5, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Breathing Underwater

In this slice-of-life, sensitively written novel, a teen girl grapples with a sudden epilepsy diagnosis, all while figuring out a new crush and an uncertain future.

Seventeen-year-old Tess Cooper lives by three train hard, study hard, work hard. Swimming is her best chance at a college scholarship. It’s what her parents, her coaches, and even her best friend expect from her—and Tess can always deliver.

Until tragedy strikes. Tess has a seizure, and her world suddenly becomes one of doctor visits, missed practices, and a summer job stuck behind a counter—not sitting high in the lifeguard chair like every year before.

Instead, her spot goes to new guy Charlie. Sure, his messy hair and laid-back demeanor sends Tess’ heart racing, but this isn’t really the time. She’s got to focus on getting back in the pool—regardless of what her doctor or anyone else says.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.

Breathing Underwater on Goodreads

My Review

Okay, so some of the things I liked about the book are kind of spoiler-y, so I apologize if some of my statements are vague.

I don’t know much about competitive swimming, and what I do know is mostly from other books, like FLIP TURNS by Catherine Arguelles, so I can’t weigh in on the accuracy of the swimming components. They were engaging, though, and I liked the way the author used metaphors about swimming to show when Tess was feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

Tess has a complicated relationship with some of her teammates, at first because she feels like another girl is stealing her best friend and later because a few girls on the team witness a traumatic moment in Tess’s life. Those relationships felt pretty real to me. The conflicts felt like the kinds of things that I experienced as a teenager. It was super relatable.

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation of Tess’s seizure and diagnosis, but I was really moved by the things Tess felt and went through. Her anxiety about getting back in the water. Her frustration with her parents over their fear and shifting boundaries. All that resonated with me.

Her relationship with Charlie was maybe the weakest pull into the story for me. I enjoyed the relationship between them, and I especially liked the lightness it brought. It just didn’t add the value to the book that I expected, I guess? I don’t know if that makes sense. I liked the arc of the relationship, though.

All in all, I liked the book. I think readers looking for books about sports, especially girls in sports, or books featuring a main character with a disability should check this one out.

Breathing Underwater on Bookshop

Content Notes for Breathing Underwater

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Tess has a seizure and later receives a diagnosis.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
A girl nearly drowns during a swimming race.

Drug Content
Teens drink alcohol at a party. Tess takes a sip and decides she doesn’t like the alcoholic drink. She spends the evening with a boy who wasn’t drinking either. Later, she helps a drunk friend get home safely.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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