Cover Image: Breath Like Water

Breath Like Water

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Member Reviews

Susannah Ramos was once a world champion swimmer. But as puberty hit and her body changed, she lost the speed that once came so naturally. A new coach could help her turn it back around. Or a romance with a new team member could distract her and steal the focus she needs to finally win again. 

This book was a real roller coaster of emotions. The good and the bad kept rolling at Susannah. Every time she seemed to be conquering one challenge, another would rear its ugly head. The success of the book, however, comes from watching Susannah's character develop and mature in spite of (or because of?) all the tough decisions she needs to make and act on.

Overall, I'd give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. Susannah wasn't a very likable character, but she tried. Her romantic interest was also hit or miss for me. The storyline was believable and teen angst-y. The swimming competition parts also felt sincere.
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Actual rating is more like 3.5 ⭐️ But raised up because of the solid and inspiring message that this story told. 

I am not the biggest fan of contemporary YA because I just know there will be instalove, and sure enough it felt like that’s exactly what happened here. However the relationship was extremely well fleshed out and the dynamics between the characters were raw. 

I liked how dedicated and focused our MC was and how much she grew over time. I like the latinx, mental health, and lgbtq representation. All of these elements were deftly handled and really made the second half of the book that much better. If there are only a handful of contemporary YA books out there that I like, then this is one of them.
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Participated in the blog tour a few months back, added it to my goodreads, and also mentioned it on the Hey YA podcast! Thanks again for including me in the tour.
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**4.5 stars**
Okay, so this was really unexpected. It is young adult but it deals a lot with serious issues, including mental health. I thought the writing was perfect. The wording and descriptions were so detailed. It was almost poetic in parts. It had a lot of good lessons in there, about trying to find who you are and what you want out of life. I had a little bit of difficulty relating to the characters, but other than that, this was really well done. I’ll be looking for more books by this author. 

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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this was an enjoyable read, the characters were great and I really enjoyed the storyline in the book.
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I read a LOT of books about swimmers this summer but this one not only gave us a great look into the life of a swimmer in an athletic sense, but it dove into some tough topics. 

A surprisingly good YA read with a lot of heart, I can’t believe it took me so long to pick this one up! 4.5 stars from me!
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Breath Like Water is a bit sadder than my typical picks, definitely a read on the heavier side, though not one that's endlessly depressing. However, it captured me right from the start, and I found myself very invested in this tale that feels realistic and beautiful in its messiness.

Susannah's an Olympic hopeful, along with hundreds of other swimmers. When she was younger, it looked like she would be the next swimming phenom, but then puberty hit, leaving her with a completely different body that's slower in the water. Still, Susannah's stubborn as all hell, and she's working as hard as she possibly can to get back to where she was. I wish I had a tenth of her motivation.

The book gets into coaching methods a lot, shown in the dichotomy between the head coach, a guy who has coached a bunch of Olympians, and an assistant coach with new ideas. Initially, Susannah does not want to switch to the new female coach, because she feels like it would mean she's less than, but ultimately she realizes that the coach's different ideas work much better for her than Coach Dave's yelling and judgment. This is effective commentary on tradition in sports, as well as the emotional abuse that's considered necessary by many for coaching. I do wish there had been more focus on the sexism, but there are hints of it.

As you might expect, Susannah's torn between her focus on swimming and her increasingly strong feelings for a new team member, Harry. This is a familiar plot line, but I did like the way things happened here. I like how much thought Susannah put into everything, perhaps too much, which is relatable. She considers everything in a very mature way. I also like that the relationship, despite what the coaches might think, really was never the problem; that felt like a subtle trope twist to me. Aside from one notable confrontation, they really were both so supportive of one another's dreams, which I thought was pretty awesome.

The mental health rep definitely had me in my feels. I'm iffy about calling this a spoiler, but just in case some people would prefer not to know the details, I'm tagging it. [It was clear to me very early on that Harry was dealing with depression, but he doesn't reveal his diagnosis for a while. He's bipolar, and, even with meds and therapy, it's tough to manage. This really got to me, because I have a friend who goes through similar periods of really needing in-patient treatment to cope, and it's tough but also so great to see that shown here in a positive light. This book is pro-therapy and meds for those who need them, and I loved how much that was not all that Harry was about. (hide spoiler)]

Though I do not feel qualified to comment on the Latinx rep, I did notice that there wasn't much about the fact that Susannah is Latinx. There are references, when we're introduced to the fact that she and Amber, her bestie who is Black, bonded because they're pretty much the only non-white people on the team. There are references here to the difficulties they face, but nothing really comes up about that in the book. There's another reference at the end, in a speech given by her mother before the trials, but that's about it.

When I call this book messy, it's not that I mean it's sloppy. It's the emotions that are messy, and nothing unravels in that perfect way things do in a fluffier sort of book. Don't get me wrong: I love that feeling. But it's nice on occasion to read a book that feels very realistic without depressing the bejeesus out of me. There's just something about the way this book wraps up that embraces the way that people are complex and messy, but it makes it feel like a really great thing. [Usually I'm all about my happy endings, but I like here that Harry needed years to work on his mental health before they could maybe be together after the book ends, and I like that Susannah really might not ever make the Olympics. There's beauty and hope here, but there's also a constant reminder that life is hard, and sometimes the timing isn't right or things don't work out. (hide spoiler)]

This isn't the sort of book I'm always in the mood for, but it hit me at a really good time. The voice and the emotions really hit me in the heart space. I'd recommend this to readers who enjoyed Emery Lord's When We Collided particularly, because thematically and in terms of tone, this reminded me of that (though they are not similar otherwise).
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I love YA books even though I am no longer a young adult, and this was no exception. I felt like it tackled hard issues that it seems many teens are going through today, in a really attainable and approachable way. Really enjoyed it.
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What I like the most about the book is that we get an inner look into the thoughts of young athletes. Susannah is a world champion, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her own insecurities about her performance in the water. As someone who aspires to be an Olympic athlete she has to work extremely hard in order to achieve her goals. Matthew, on the other hand, swims more for the fun of it (he also swims for another reason but I don’t want to reveal it cause it’s kind of spoilerly). They have completely different motivations for swimming, but they both love the water.

The book also explores different types of relationships very well. We get to see Susannah’s relationship with her family, who do everything they can to support her. Her two coaches, both who want her succeed, but have very different methods in how to achieve that. Her first romantic relationship with Matthew, which she has to balance with her practice schedule. The author interweaves the exploration of these relationships with the plot very well.

Breathe Like Water was a surprising read for me. I was expecting a more light-hearted story, but the novel doesn’t shy away from the lesser known side of an aspiring athlete. I would highly recommend to people who are looking for a young adult sports contemporary that’s different from the rest!
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At first, I thought this story would focus only on Susannah and her struggles with coaches, parents, expectations and results as she works toward her own personal bests in swimming. And, there is plenty of that in this story - told in a rather cyclical pattern that mimics (and feels) very much like lap swim training.  But, the story quickly becomes so much more as Susannah meets another swimmer, Harry, who becomes her everything as they both battle injuries, expectations, issues from pressure and isolation, and fears about meeting (or failing to meet) their goals. 

Gentle and unassuming, the friendship and support that they get from one another quickly blossoms into more: a love that is far more mature than their ages or experience would suggest. With insets of training routines, the ups and downs of finding a goal when very young and simply focusing on it, perhaps to the detriment of other things. The determination and work-ethic involved, and the little jealousies and pitfalls that happen when milestones are reached, perhaps unevenly. 

What emerges from all of the emotions, the struggles and the dramas is the ability to put lessons learned in one place (the pool) to work in other aspects of your life: learning to let go and break free of the expected as you push onward to the next hoped for goal.  A lovely read that is nuanced, deep and emotionally captivating as the issues the two discover, and the way they support each other, allows them to rediscover their own love for swimming, and for themselves. 

I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 

Review first appeared at   I am, Indeed 
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I like watching the Olympic swim meets as much as the next person and angsty teen romance is kind of why I read this genre, lol! That being said, I enjoyed this one but I wasn't expecting the bittersweet ending.  Or the grueling real life challenges of those Olympic hopefuls. It turned out to be a bit of a downer for me.

So although the beginning and the middle where great for reeling me in, keeping me interested and giving me characters to really root for, the end left me feeling deflated. 

I'm not one that seeks out realism in my reads. I prefer uplifting, inspiring and generally a happy - feel good ending. Thats not what this book is all about. 

The risky and delicate subjects that are brought up in Breathe Like Water were commendable and sheds some much needed light on mental health and how to seek help but I wish it hadn't been so rushed. It was like pulling teeth to get to the big secret but then once it's out, things quickly spiral out of control and then it's over. Fast forward to  two years and we're left with a teaser of what could be. 

I know this book with resonate with a different reader group and although not a favorite, I did like the positive lessons learned between Susie and Harry. Harry is hands down my favorite character and wish he had gotten his own POV just because I found him the most relatable/likable of the two MCs.
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Thanks NetGalley for the preview! 

I loved this book! Susannah is a strong, determined and flawed female athlete.  She created a good role model who still has her own problems.  Harry begins as the strong, hot, popular guy and reveals a huge vulnerable side.   Watching these two characters bounce off of one another as they grow and change was so exciting.  I could not put this book down! Yes they are both selfish teens at times but that makes them human and relatable.  I also would like to slap Dave!!
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What a beautiful story. This book dealt with some heavy topics - mental illness, first loves, self confidence and verbal abuse from a coach. I adored both of the main characters and my heart broke as I read about their struggles. The author did balance the heaviness with plenty of light, sweet dialogue, supportive families and friends (I don’t like really heavy/sad books so this was good for me). The writing was engaging and you will love and cheer for these characters.
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This book was terrific. It was a moving story of a girl who just wants to swim and reach the Olympics and finds out what is truly important in life.
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I requested and received an e-ARC of this book from Anna Jarzab and Inkyard Press through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  It was fun watching Susannah grow as an individual and an athlete.  I would recommend this book to any teen looking for a good romance novel, the content was age appropriate, easy to read, and kept you entertained.
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While not appropriate to address as a classroom piece, definitely a novel I would recommend to students. Covers a lot of important topics in a balanced fashion while remaining entertaining. Would especially recommend to student-athletes or other highly competitive arenas.
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I truly enjoyed the journey I had with this book. Susannah grows so much as a character and her relationship with Harry was so sweet. I really appreciated how you get to see many of the characters grow and change throughout this story, and I’ll be thinking about Breath Like Water for quite some time.
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DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced reader copy (eBook) of Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab from Inkyard Press through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Breath Like Water is part of Harlequin Trade Publishing’s 2020 YA Summer blog tour from Inkyard Press.

“That’s the nice thing about swimming: the water is new every day.”

Breath Like Water was a refreshing read that really resonated with me. In YA books, there aren’t a lot of books about swimmers. As someone who swam on the swim team back in the day, I was excited to read this book. Fortunately, it did not disappoint one bit. I really liked Susannah’s character. Her background as a swimmer, Latina, and Chicagoan was very relatable. I admired Susannah’s strength and courage as she trained for the US Olympic Team Trials. I liked her character development throughout the story. She really learned a lot about herself as a swimmer and as a person.

I was a fan of Susannah’s love interest, Harry, who teaches her about friendship, love, and mental illness. Their relationship’s foundation is a special friendship at its core. Together, Susannah and Harry dealt with much more than a teenage romance. Surprisingly, Breath Like Water ended up being about more than a swimmer’s journey to the US Olympic Team Trials, but about mental health and coping with mental illness. So many people in the world deal with mental illness, so it was refreshing to find that this book spreads awareness about it – specifically bipolar disorder.

I give Breath Like Water 5 out of 5 stars! This book has a very special place in my heart. Reading about a female swimmer was very nostalgic for me, and made me miss my days as a swimmer. I love that Breath Like Water covers uncommon topics, such as women in sports and mental illness. I think everyone will fall in love with the characters, the story, and gain a new perspective on life.

Check out my blog to read my full review:
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As much as I love the cover art and the idea behind Breath Like Water, I just couldn't connect with it.  I am not sure if it was the sports behind the romance or how quickly they seemed to just be together. I felt a lack of depth with all of the characters and just couldn't hang in there with it.  They touched on some mental illness parts which I found interesting, but wanted more from that as well.
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I enjoyed reading several aspects of this book! The pacing was wonderful, characters were well drawn, and the reading experience on the whole was delightful.
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