'I dream about him night after night. He is everywhere on the island because this is a place where he was happy, and felt like he belonged...
Freya has come back to the remote island where her grandparents live, and where last summer he brother Joe died in a boating accident. but what really happened that night? Freya is not convinced that it was an accident and feels as if Joe's presence is still haunting her.
Perhaps, this summer, Freya will find a way to work out what happened, and pull herself and her family out of the sorrow that is threatening to overwhelm them. And perhaps Freya will discover that life- and love- is still vibrantly in the air.'
On first glance Breathing Underwater appears to be another feel good teenage summer romance with the sandy beach and clear aqua blue of the sea. In reality it has a lot more depth to it.
It is not the kind of book that has a complicated plot and any exciting twists and turns that jump out for your attention but it shines in its own particular way. Not much happens in the course of the book in an event way but that the end I could see a clear and dramatic change in Freya and the other characters around her which is what this book is all about.
The main character and voice of the story is Freya,a young fourteen girl old girl who is suffering with the grief of the loss of her older brother a year on from the accident. Coming back to the island where it happened has mixed feelings for her, she likes the way that she can feel her brother there and remember the times they spent together there but it also brings back the painful memories of what happened that summer and how he changed so suddenly.
Freya comes across as a quiet and fragile character at times and it was easy to sympathise with her. Despite this, she also has a strong and bright side that helps her to cope. As well as coping with her thoughts and feelings about Joe, she is growing up and finding her true self and dealing with insecurities, first love and the power and complications of friendship.
The way that she is portrayed and the book is written is beautiful, nothing is exaggerated and Freya's emotions were captured in a touching way that is often hard to convey in words.
I loved the island setting because it helped to lighten the book up and inject some summer fun into it, the descriptions of basking in the sun, sailing races, the clear blue of the sea, barbecues on the beach and star gazing with all the other children and teenagers at the campsite were wonderful.
I liked the way that the book had chapters of flashbacks to the summer before which helped me to get to know Joe's character and understand what happened better. Sometimes flashbacks ruin the effect of a story by cutting it up but these complimented the story and fitted hand in hand with the main narrative.
The only thing that I found a little unrealistic was a scene near the end when Freya feels Joe's spirit physically helping her and saving her life. However, this is such a small point and did not detract from my enjoyment of the book at all.
This is the second Julia Green book I have read and it turns out that this is her debut and I read her second book first unintentionally. I loved this one just as much and I can see how she has developed as an author in Drawing With Light. I can't wait to read more from her!
My favourite quote from the book: "Energy fizzes along every nerve and muscle in my body. I keep my breathing steady: in, out, long breaths that take the air deep inside, a flow along my blood . . . The water, deep and clean and cold, washes through my mind, cleansing me of thought, until that's all there is: water. Clear and open and free."
Verdict: Breathing Underwater explores teenage grief with sensitivity and poignancy with a message of inspiration as well as describing a sun soaked summer beautifully-fans of young adult books will find it a breath of fresh air.
Stephanie (Books Are A Girl's Best Friend)