Cover Image: Breathing Underwater

Breathing Underwater

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I sadly had to DNF this book about 20% in. I struggled with connecting the any of the characters it just didn’t work for me!

Thank you for the copy of the arc.

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From the first page, Breathing Underwater was easy to read, pages flowed easily and the characters were unique.

Definitely aimed at the younger end of the YA audience, this one is an important read about finding yourself, allowing yourself to grow and to heal

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I don’t know much about competitive swimming, and what I do know is mostly from other books, like FLIP TURNS by Catherine Arguelles, so I can’t weigh in on the accuracy of the swimming components. They were engaging, though, and I liked the way the author used metaphors about swimming to show when Tess was feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

Tess has a complicated relationship with some of her teammates, at first because she feels like another girl is stealing her best friend and later because a few girls on the team witness a traumatic moment in Tess’s life. Those relationships felt pretty real to me. The conflicts felt like the kinds of things that I experienced as a teenager. It was super relatable.

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation of Tess’s seizure and diagnosis, but I was really moved by the things Tess felt and went through. Her anxiety about getting back in the water. Her frustration with her parents over their fear and shifting boundaries. All that resonated with me.

Her relationship with Charlie was maybe the weakest pull into the story for me. I enjoyed the relationship between them, and I especially liked the lightness it brought. It just didn’t add the value to the book that I expected, I guess? I don’t know if that makes sense. I liked the arc of the relationship, though.

All in all, I liked the book. I think readers looking for books about sports, especially girls in sports, or books featuring a main character with a disability should check this one out.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

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“Breathing Underwater,” by Abbey Lee Nash

Fast tracked to her dream career and school with her swimming talent until she becomes Epileptic. Now her life is consumed by doctor visits, friends that are growing apart from her, and the loss of her summer job. The job she was supposed to have was given to a new guy, Charlie. Charlie is the opposite of Tess; he is laid back and unbothered by anything. Life keeps throwing him into her line of sight, but she wants to just focus on getting well so she can go back to swimming.

This is a slice-of-life and coming-of-age story about how life changes in a second and might never go back to what it was before. The book was good but a little boring. It is a good book for teens who struggle with self-identity and the pressure to succeed. 3 out of 5 stars.

Thank you for the ARC, Netgalley.

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With one word, Tess’s world could be completely undone:

Tess lives for swimming: the feel of the pool's rough edge on her toes, the snap of cold water on her skin, and the push of her limbs ever forward. In the water, she’s truly alive.

Lyrically and sensitively written, Breathing Underwater is a slice-of-life story with depth, exploring topics like epilepsy, inclusivity in student athletics, changing friendships, and the power of love and community. With warmth and wit, Abbey Lee Nash has crafted a moving portrait of a teen girl’s journey to self-acceptance and life on her own terms.

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Read from February 18th, 2024 to February 25th, 2024. Written on March 5th, 2024.


I have somewhat mixed feelings about this one but in an overall I enjoyed it. The characters were interesting and relatable, the writing was good and the plot was easy to follow and with a good pace.

Now, at first the story didn't hook me up like I thought it would, which is okay because I ended up falling more and more into the storyline and all its intricacies. It was a bit too slow at first and, even though we get a vibe of the characters and the story sort of right off the bat, it still took its time to make me want to keep turning the pages of the story.

I did love the whole awareness to epilepsy and how the environment and the characters changed according to what was happening. Plus, even though the main character was overshadowed in her life by the problems she was having, I like that the author didn't focus everything of the book on epilepsy and actually gave some breathing room for new and improved stories to happen.

I genuinely recommend this story for everyone, as a way to never give up on what you want even if life throws a ton of stuff your way. It's a book about overcoming difficulties, learning new ways to live and, above all, staying true to yourself.

(Free ARC from NetGalley and Holiday House / Peachtree / Pixel+Ink that I chose to review after reading)

Signing off,

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Breathing Underwater is a contemporary book about Tess, who is a swimmer hoping to obtain a college scholarship, when her life is upended by a series of seizures. Obviously, I am drawn to any swimming book. The author mentions that any errors are her taking creative license, which I really appreciated- sometimes it can take me out of a swimming book especially when there are errors, so I like that she said this! (In fairness, she did a pretty solid job with it!)

Obviously, you have to feel for Tess here. Putting myself in her shoes, I'd have been next-level devastated. But she is also determined not to let her epilepsy diagnosis totally railroad her life, which is admirable but also kind of scary- what if this is not the best option for her? She also has to work through relationships with her friends/teammates, a new potential love interest, and her parents, who are at opposing ends of whether she should get back in the pool.

I don't know how much this one will stick with me if I am being honest, but it was enjoyable to read and was a great spin on trying to navigate life and reevaluate your plans when a health condition derails them. Obviously, the scholarship angle is a big deal, but beyond that, no one really becomes a "professional swimmer". It just doesn't exist. People training for the Olympics usually have to have day jobs if they are out of college. There are a handful who get sponsored by Speedo and the like, but that's literally a one-in-a-billion, so I don't really think Tess is being realistic at points, but alas. Also, swimming scholarships are basically unicorns. She'd get some money if she was Olympic-level good, but usually swim teams get one or two full scholarships to divide, or give to one superstar I guess. Anyway, just some of the ways that women and non-ball athletes get shafted. Regardless, even if she wasn't going to be financially impacted by the epilepsy, it is still a huge personal toll, which I think I wish was explored just a little more, but overall, I really liked the story!

Bottom Line: A great sports-based story about a young woman having to overcome an unfortunate diagnosis.

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This book is easy to read but gave me heartwarming feelings even though it's quite painful. This book tells us about how to overcome a big challenge that could happen in our lives. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to everyone.

Thank you for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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i love to read disability representation, especially the kind that tackles all the emotions of diagnosis. i do think this one got sidetracked at times with a love interest sideplot, which lessened the impact of the primary storyline. overall, i had mixed feelings about this book. Thank you to Holiday House for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

This book gave me painful with heartwarming feelings and i think i would never forget the way it's hurts me everytime Tess have a moment of breakdown, yet i couldn't not feel proud and happy when everyone is supporting her, even when she did not feel any confidence left in herself.

I'm really glad Tess could overcome her struggle with epilepsy and even embrace it, but the accident when she had a break up with Charlie is kinda unnecessary and i feel a bit disappointment when he said he didn't care about about swimming, tho i hope he could take care of words he choose to say and his apology for it.

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A cute easy read, about over coming challenges which life throws. I really enjoyed this quick read :)

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In a way, i am like Tess. I had everything just as i wanted until life threw itself at me so i can relate to her.
The romance between Tess and Charlie had an satysfying story for me.

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Breathing Underwater‘s gorgeous cover was calling me like a siren — I mean, look at that thing. 😍 But it was the synopsis that really got me. The book, by Abbey Lee Nash, centers on teen competitive swimmer Tess during the summer she’s diagnosed with epilepsy. As she grapples with this news, everything she’s ever dreamed of and planned for her life is screeched to a halt. How can she swim when she’s constantly at risk of having a seizure? But then, how can she not swim, when that’s all she’s ever known?

I don’t have much knowledge on epilepsy, and the only epileptic characters I recall reading about were side characters. So I was super excited to get a protagonist going through these physical and emotional struggles. And overall, Breathing Underwater is a smooth, fast-paced read that provides a lot of insight. Into the confusion and fear that accompanies seizures. The sense of hopelessness that the triggers and precautions bring out. But in terms of character, everything is pretty surface level. I wanted more from Tess, more from her friendships, and more from her romance with the cute new lifeguard Charlie. The people around Tess reassure her that she’s more than a swimmer, but as a reader, I failed to see that. If we got a longer look at who she is — as both swimmer Tess and everyday teenager Tess — I think her journey would’ve been more fulfilling.

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Breathing Underwater is a light and painful and harsh story about a girl named Tess who is a competitive swimmer who's dreams get derailed by her epilepsy diagnosis. She can feel her whole world crashing around but discovers that it was her own doing which I internalized this theme so deeply that it hurt and I learned something about myself and saw some lessons that I missed as a kid if that makes any sense. This story is about family, teen evolution, getting out of comfortable, failer, and of course love.
I really loved this story. I was rooting for the main character. I wanted to hit her, hug her, cheer and cuddle her. I loved all the characters and the story and the theme. Yes it was slightly cliche but in every wonderful way..
Very highly recommend if you are looking for all the feels.

I would like to graciously thank Netgally, the publisher and author for allowing me access to this ARC read.

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Idleness, resiliency, and the strength of community are all explored in this coming-of-age tale "Breathing Underwater."
The protagonist of this novel by Abbey Lee Nash is a teenage girl named Tess, who finds solace in swimming as a coping mechanism for the daily struggles she faces.
Readers are encouraged to consider their own paths of self-acceptance and the pursuit of a life lived on their own terms by looking at and understanding Tess's experiences.
Breathing Underwater by Abbey Lee Nash is a powerful and unforgettable book because of her ability to tell a narrative that is both personal and universal. It is honestly worth the read.

Thank you netgalley and holiday house/Peachtree/pixel+ink for the ARC

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Thank you Netgalley and Holiday House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

"Breathing Underwater" by Abbey Nash presents a poignant narrative centered around Tess Cooper, a 17-year-old swimmer whose swimming future (going to Nationals, getting a college scholarship, potentially even going to the Olympics) are abruptly challenged when she is diagnosed with epilepsy.

I enjoyed reading this book, specifically with how Tess was learning to navigate life without swimming as well as trying to still incorporate swimming in her new life. I thought the book was accurate in its portrayal of teenage life and the challenges of dealing with an unexpected life-altering diagnosis. I especially liked how Nash presented the differing perspectives of the other characters in Tess’s life, like her parents and her best friend. I did want to experience more of a profound exploration of Tess's internal struggles and the impact of her diagnosis on her relationships and sense of identity. Tess’s character felt a bit underdeveloped; her characterization feels one-dimensional, leaving me struggling to connect with her. There just wasn’t much shown of who Tess is outside of swimming, and since that is such a focal point of the story, this characterization needed to be explored more. For example, it’s mentioned that Tess likes to read, but this character trait is very superficial, like we don’t know what kinds of books she likes to read.

The romance in this book is very sweet, as I really like how Charlie, Tess’s love interest, is always there for her and encouraging her in little ways. Their relationship felt very authentic, though the romance aspect was a little rushed. The relationships between Tess and her best friend as well as with her sister were the highlights of the book. I love how the relationships weren’t perfect, but the characters were actively trying to grow and learn from each other.

Overall, "Breathing Underwater" is a light and engaging read, and I would recommend this book to those looking for an easy read. Those who have experienced the same challenges as Tess may be more receptive of the story and Tess’s character. I would rate this book 3.5 stars out of 5 (rounded up to 4).

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I read up to 25% before setting this aside. The storyline of a character no longer being able to do what she loves really resonated with me as I have been in Tess's shoes. As the story progressed, I was frustrated with the horrible decisions Tess was making and how she was putting her health in danger. I also was appalled at how her dad blatantly didn't care about her health and pushed her to go back to swimming asap. With those two things, plus the friend issue and a love interest, I did not feel invested in the story as I predicted where the plot would go. Thank you for giving me the chance to read this.

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2.5 🌟

Beautiful cover and promising premise. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. Tess gets a seizure attack, which jeopardizes her entire swimming career and future, and throughout the book, she has to navigate and adjust to the uncertainties of her epilepsy. It started off intriguing, but after a few chapters, I got bored. I feel like the characters could have been fleshed out more. Like other reviews have pointed out, Tess as a character is only limited to swimming. This is pitched as slice-of-life, so I understand the focus on Tess’s swimming career, but other than that, we don’t find anything else about her. The other characters felt one-dimensional as well. Overall, this had potential, but the story was simply telling with little showing.

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Breathing Underwater, a contemporary young adult novel by Abbey Nash was a slow read for me, at first. It revolves around Tess, a competitive swimmer who is set to go to Nationals with her high school team when tragedy strikes. At a party with friends, Tess experiences a seizure and nearly drowns. Afterwards, she finds out that it was more than a fluke. In fact, she is diagnosed with epilepsy, something that could put an end, not only to competing with her team, but to her swimming career entirely. Even worse, her seizure costs Tess her summer job lifeguarding, to new guy Charlie, and puts a strain on her relationship with her best friend Mackenzie (Mac). A wedge that only continues to grow as Mac seems more interested in hanging out with teammate and popular mean girl, Rachel, than with Tess. Even though the inciting incident that changes everything in the story happens early on, Tess's singular focus on swimming and nothing else made it hard for me to immediately empathize with her. I did feel bad that she and Mac seem to be having some trouble even before Tess has her seizure. However, as she faces one hurdle after another and gets to know Charlie, her new neighbor, I felt myself being pulled into this story.

I found the characters to all be well drawn and Tess's reaction, to what she sees as her body's betrayal, very believable and genuine. I appreciated that Nash does this with sensitivity and heart. A story like this one could easily become an angst ridden one with a main character that either lashes out at everyone in anger or wallows in self-pity. But Nash creates a realistic three-dimensional character in Tess, who fluctuates between fear, uncertainty, anger and the pain of disappointment, feeling like she won't ever live up to her full potential or achieve her dreams. Likewise, Tess's interactions with Mac, her family and with Charlie all add layers to the story making it a compelling read. The more I got to know her and the other characters the more I found myself unable to put it down. I especially loved the banter and flirting that goes on between Tess and Charlie as their romance develops. Not only does he become a good friend to her, but the attraction between them has a slow sweet build as their first love blossoms. Charlie also carries some secret pain and disappointments of his own that add intrigue to the story. In the midst of all of this, Nash gives us a nice time clock that intensifies the pace as the Nationals approach and we are left wondering if Tess will still be able to achieve her dream of competing and securing a scholarship at the college she has always hoped to attend. All in all, I would give this 4 out of 5 stars since it did take me a bit longer to be drawn into the story. However, that could also be because I am reading it from an adult perspective.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy contemporary young adult fiction that has a slow burn style element of romance. It is a stand alone book as well, which may appeal to some readers who prefer that to series fiction. Breathing Underwater also has a premise I haven't seen a lot in YA fiction since it involves a character who is struggling to adapt to having a serious disorder that could throw all of her aspirations completely off course. Added to that this cover design is gorgeous. If any or all of these things appeal to you as a reader then definitely put this one on your want to read list.

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<i>Thank you NetGalley and Holiday House for the ARC.</i>

Tess Cooper is a 17-year-old swimmer who has her future planned. Get a college scholarship through swimming. However, things suddenly change direction when Tess has a seizure, forcing her to rethink her future and choices.

Even with the first-person point of view, it seems that at no point do we get to know the MC. We know that she likes to swim, the job she has every summer, and a few other superficial things, but hardly anything about her inner thoughts and her character.

Some things that bothered me – besides the lack of depth in the characters – it was their relationships. It felt like Charlie and Tess ended things as fast as they started, and Mac and Tess, who could have a beautiful friendship throughout the book, were apart for most of it and then they apologized like nothing really happened.

I think the conflict between them could have been better worked on, as could Charlie's complicated relationship with his father (which was mentioned a couple of times and forgotten in the end).

Overall, it was a quick and interesting book that could have better character development, but it was an okay read.

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