Breathing Underwater is a contemporary YA novel by Julia Green and also her debut novel. It was published on 4th May 2009 by Bloomsbury and the book is 208 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
Freya and her family have been going to the remote island where her grandparents live every summer for as long as she can remember. Last summer, her brother died. This summer, Freya is going back to the island without her parents, who can't handle the trip, to figure out what really happened, knowing that there was no way it was an accident.
While on the island though, Freya realises that not everything has to be about her brother anymore. She is old enough now to have a life of her own and discovering the island and the people that live there is one of the things she is most looking forward to. This summer is all about learning to live with loss, discovering love, life and most importantly, herself.
What I thought
I didn't really know too much about this author or the book before being sent it for review but I am someone who is always willing to try out new things so gladly dove straight into this book.
From the cover, this book does look like it is going to a lovely, light-hearted summer read but it also has much more to it than that. This is a story of Freya and the search to find out what really happened to her brother who died the previous year. Instead of being a book about an island summer romance, this is a book about discovery and closure. The island setting does help to take away some of the drama and tension from the story with wonderful descriptions of the sea and breathtaking sunsets though and it helped to make the book not as dreary as it could have been.
I was left feeling quite unsure about Breathing Underwater overall. While the writing was beautiful for the most part, I didn't connect with the main character, Freya, as much as I thought I was going to. Going back to the island where her brother died must have been extremely hard for her and for a while, I did feel her grief. As Freya spends more time on the island and with her newfound friends, I could feel her grief disappearing. In one sense, I thought this was good because it made part of the story be more about Freya finding herself and dealing with the past but it also took away from that the book was supposed to be about. Many parts of Breathing Underwater had me torn as to whether I liked them or not.
Freya's determination to find out what happened to her brother deteriorated quite quickly and I felt like the main point of the story quickly changed to it being about a guy. That being said, the guy/s in this book were not amazing. I didn't feel like I wanted Freya to be with anyone, especially when she was on the island to figure something out. The male characters were really not that interesting or charismatic enough for me to even like them very much, let alone route for them in any sense. Some of the other secondary characters though, like Freya's grandparents were great and they really added in some much needed humour into the story. They were also great characters and were truly interesting to read about.
Overall, I didn't love this book but because parts of it were written so beautifully, I would definitely give Julia Green another chance. As a debut writer, Green shows a lot of promise and I hope she delivers in future books.