This is a really well written book telling the story of an abusive relationship from the boy's point of view. I thought that was interesting since these types of stories are generally told from the girls side only.
I'm going to say this once, and then we'll all forget it--I spent 90% of this book despising the main character, Nick Andreas. Now that it's out of the way, I can go on to say that I loved BREATHING UNDERWATER and even came, in some small way, to understand--if not actually like--Nick's character.
Nick is the kind of boy that you would look at and immediately say "man, that kid has it all." But you would be wrong. Because although he has a dad who makes a ton of money, and lives in a big, fancy house, and drives a shiny red sports car, Nick doesn't have a fairytale life. His father is abusive, both mentally and physically, and he can't even remember his mother. He has a best friend, Tom, who has the kind of family he wishes he had himself, and a pretty important A-list group of schoolkids that he hangs out with. His life isn't great, but he manages--until he meets Caitlin, falls in love, and things all fall apart.
BREATHING UNDERWATER starts out with Nick appearing in court in answer to a restraining order that his once girlfriend, Caitlin McCourt, has taken out against him. The judge doesn't fall for Nick's innocent "who me?" act, and sentences him to stay away from Caitlin, both on school grounds and off; to enroll in a six month counseling class dealing with family violence and anger management; and to keep a journal, at least five hundred words per week, detailing what happened to end up where he is, and why.
A lot of the book is told through Nick's journal, and it's through the words he writes that we come to know how abuse is a cycle--and how, many times, the abuser doesn't even realize that he's become like the person he most hates. This is Nick's story, the dawning realization that everything he hates about his father is manifested in his treatment of Caitlin. How did a boy who supposedly has it all end up beating his girlfriend senseless in a parking lot? How can love be so mixed up with the need to control that it leaves you breathless and shaking, angry at the person you love the most?
Alex Flinn has written a very important story, that of family violence and the toll it takes on everyone involved. This is the kind of cycle that needs to be broken, before more young people like Nick repeat the only thing they know. A truly informative book, BREATHING UNDERWATER is not to be missed.
I should have reviewed this when I finished but on occasion that's hard for me to do so I'm stuck with having to rely on my crappy memory. Luckily it was only yesterday that I finished this. The day before was when I started Breathing Underwater and needless to say it's a fast read. It could be read in a matter of a couple hours if one had the time. It's also "easy" to read and by that I don't mean the subject matter but how the book reads. It wouldn't scare off a new reader. I don't think I'd have this to a reluctant reader though and only because all of the people I've met who could be called "reluctant readers" would see this as a preach in book form. That's the opposite of what I'd be trying to accomplish by giving him/her this book in the first place so personally this isn't the book I'd pick for that job.
Nick is very realistic and I think for the most part Caitlin is also. Flinn did a great job with how easily she had Nick join the ranks of abusive "men". ("Boy" would be a better word.)
The book doesn't feel like an after school special and I think that'll go a long way with teenagers. I know I'd have loved this when I was in my early teens.
One irky thing about the book: the kid on the cover looks almost just like an ex of mine.