Breathing Under Water Review: Floating on water for the first half until the story started to drown me

December 14, 2016 by Jenna | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Breathing Under Water Review: Floating on water for the first half until the story started to drown meBreathing Under Water by Sophie Hardcastle
Published by Hachette Australia on July 12th 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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Nineteen minutes and eleven seconds separated us at birth. On the official documentation, he is older . . . Although it really has nothing to do with age. What it really means is that I am, and have always been, second.

Ben and Grace Walker are twins. Growing up in a sleepy coastal town it was inevitable they'd surf. Always close, they hung out more than most brothers and sisters, surfing together for hours as the sun melted into the sea. At seventeen, Ben is a rising surf star, the golden son and the boy all the girls fall in love with. Beside him, Grace feels like she is a mere reflection of his light. In their last year of school, the world beckons, full of possibility. For Grace, finishing exams and kissing Harley Matthews is just the beginning.

Then, one day, the unthinkable. The sun sets at noon and suddenly everything that was safe and predictable is lost. And everything unravels.

Breathing Under Water is a lyrical and emotionally powerful novel about life, death and learning to breathe in between.

Breathing Under Water is an Aussie debut YA novel about tragedy and dealing with grief. I really enjoyed the first third of the book and the ending but the middle section left me feeling cold and I was unable to connect with the story or the main character.

The novel begins with a glimpse into our main character, Grace’s, life with her twin brother and their group of friends. An old friend, Harley, has returned to the area and has joined their group. Together, they surf and hang out at parties, until one day when tragedy hits. Grace and her friends are left struggling as they try to come to terms with what has happened. I’m not sure if the death in the book is meant to be big plot point that I’m not meant to spoil but I thought it was pretty clear from the synopsis exactly who was going to die. And I spent most of the first section of the book waiting for it to happen. Because of this, I wasn’t particularly shocked and I didn’t really feel the emotion of the situation. I just wasn’t able to connect with it and it didn’t have the impact on me that I thought it would. Having said that, I really enjoyed the first part of the book before the tragic accident and it was definitely my favourite section of the novel. I felt that the story went downhill for me from that point on and I think I have a pretty clear idea of why that happened.

After the death occurs in novel, Grace goes on a bit of a downward spiral where she begins to smoke, take drugs, skip school and act in inappropriate ways around people who she should be showing more respect. And I think it was all of those things that turned me off the novel. I am not a fan of drugs in books, and the drug use in this book is definitely more than what we typically see in the average YA contemporary. However, it wasn’t just the drug use and spinning out of control that made me dislike the book. It was the fact that all of these things made Grace a very dislikeable and unemotional character. I get that different people grieve in different ways and it doesn’t always have to be a hopeful and inspirational kind of story. But there wasn’t a point in the book where her grief actually came across to me and I felt very disconnected from the emotion that I was supposed to be feeling from the story. I just was not a big fan of the 150 pages that followed the tragic death. However, I thought the book redeemed itself in the last 50 pages. I liked how the story was resolved and I’m glad that I made it all the way to the end.

Even though I found Grace to be extremely dislikeable, there were plenty of other characters that I loved. I loved Grace’s twin, Ben, and the way that he was portrayed. I loved that he was a great cook and a wonderful brother and friend. I particularly loved that he made fairy bread sandwiches. Where do I find a Ben?! I also absolutely loved Harley and the fact that he was also a great cook. I enjoyed his caring and gentle side and the fact that he was there for Grace in the background without being the solution to all her problems. I also enjoyed the role that Grace’s family played in the book. In short, I loved almost all of the  characters in the book, except Grace, which is a shame.

I thought the writing of the book was quite nice. However, at times, I found the writing to be a bit too flowery. There were some strange metaphors in the book that I found a bit excessive and took me out of the story. But I thought the flow of the writing was good overall and it was easy to read. There were a couple of times when things seemed to come out of nowhere without being set up and I wished some things had been less subtle.


Breathing Under Water is a book that had a great concept. However, the emotion of the book didn’t come across to me and I don’t think the novel reached its full potential. I wasn’t a fan of the main character but I enjoyed reading about all the other characters in the book.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Thank you to Hachette Australia for providing a review copy of the book.


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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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14 responses to “Breathing Under Water Review: Floating on water for the first half until the story started to drown me

    • Yeah I totally agree. I wasn't sure if the death was meant to be a secret but it's just so completely predictable from the synopsis! And the accident doesn't happen for a good chunk of the book, so you're just like waiting for it. I wasn't a big fan of that approach.

  1. I'm glad that this featured grief but it's a shame it wasn't portrayed in a way that was relatable to you Jenna! It sounds like the main character wasn't very respectful towards others. Sometimes when you predict novels too early it definitely affects your enjoyment. Lovely review!

    • Yeah I was a bit disappointed with this one, especially since I had been really excited to read it and bought it when it was first released. Just a shame that I really didn't like the main character and that the story felt a bit emotionless at times.

  2. Somewhat Reserved

    And the the worst thing is that Grace and I share the same name (it's my middle name but still). Man, shame on the author for making the despicable character have my name! Scandalous, I tell you!

    • HAHAHAHA isn't it just the worst?! I rarely find characters with my name and usually when I do, she's a really minor side character who's usually the bitch or the one who's trying to steal the boyfriend.

  3. Great review, Jenna! I feel much of the same things that you feel, actually, except I don't think I ever really found myself immersed at all. I agree that the writing was often too flowery and some metaphors were really strange, and overall the book just didn't really work for me. I also liked Ben, though. <3

    • Omg I'm so glad that you agree with me on this one! I thought I was a black sheep. I absolutely loved Ben in the book but that was about it. I was not a fan of Grace at all and it kind of ruined the whole thing for me and took me completely out of the story.

    • Yeah, I find it hard to like a book when I really dislike the main character. That's definitely what happened here. But I did like the themes of the book and the beginning and end of it. It's just not a story that I would reread.

    • Yeah it really wasn't my cup of tea but I do appreciate that the author was trying to show that people grieve and react in different ways. I love supporting our Aussie authors though so I'm glad I picked this one up anyway.

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