Guest review by Carrie from teabelly
Breathing Underwater by Julia Green is a sweet story about loss and moving on. 14 year old Freya spends every summer with her grandparents on a remote island, with the freedom to roam around and make friends with the children of vacationing families. Having once spent those summers with her brother Joe, she returns alone after the loss of Joe in boating accident the year before. Freya’s parents are not coping with the loss, and she worries they may split up. She’s also trying to remember what went on last year, why Joe was so distant, and exactly what happened the night he died.
Julia Green explores this in two separate timelines. There’s this summer and last summer. Here we get a sense of Joe, and some of the reasons for his moodiness as he pulls himself away from his sister. Freya is putting the pieces back together, but this means remembering a Joe she didn’t particularly like, one who wouldn’t always let her join in, who left her alone and angered easily. She’s looking for an explanation, but also worries about the part she played.
This is a quick and simple read, but also moving. And although it deals with grief, Freya isn’t overwhelmed by it. She’s getting on with things the best she can, she’s trying to have a life, to have fun, to still be around people, while also trying to resolve her feelings for Joe and what life means without him. She has a crush on an older boy which is complicated by her friendship with his girlfriend, and there’s also a younger boy’s affections to deal with.
I think the cover of this book does it a disservice, as they one I have makes it look like a throwaway teenage romance, like it has little substance. And while it isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, it has much more going for it than the cover suggests. I’m trying to avoid puns here about depth or other water related imagery, but that does sum it up nicely. It is deeper than you would expect. The writing is strong and I enjoyed all the characters. Possibly more could have been made of her crush, since it’s hard to see exactly what Freya sees in him, but her friendship with his girlfriend and Freya’s doubts about her own feelings are well done. The overall mystery, such as it is, of what happened to Joe seems to be resolved too quickly, and I was a little disappointed with the resolution, but all in all, a nice read.
Thank you very much Carrie!