HMH Books for Young Readers
April 26 2016
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Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach. One minute Eddie was there, and the next he was gone. Seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie is a cute and mysterious boy that Elsie meets in her favorite boathouse hangout. When Tay introduces Elsie to the world of freediving, she vows to find the answers she seeks at the bottom of the sea.
When Elsie's brother, her twin, Eddie died five yars ago, it broke her family and its members. Some ways are immediately apparent to readers, others revealed as you read.
Elsie's life, aside from the death of her brother and her dysfunctional family is not easy. She is overweight and she is bullied at school. The girl, Ailsa who's her main tormentor even says to her, "Ergh, you're still here. We all hoped you'd died over the holidays." (pg 27)
When a chance meeting brings Tay into Elsie's life - and she's introduced to freediving, it's both everything she should avoid and exactly what she feels she needs. It isn't only how she feels about Tay, about the boys and Mick, how it feels to finally have people seem interested in her, she hopes it will bring her answers about the day Eddie drowned.
That secret life of Elsie's starts but her family life doesn't become some static thing or drop to the background. There is still something 'off' about her older brother Dillon. Something that, even once she's discovered it, Elise isn't sure how to handle. Then, of course, there are her parents and their troubles both individually and as a couple.
I liked that The Art of Not Breathing was a mystery, with Elsie trying to piece together what happened the day her twin died, but that it was almost something you don't notice at first. As you read, you're more focused on Elsie, her loneliness and isolation, the dysfunction of their family and what it means for and to each of them, and then Elsie's introduction to diving. At first it isn't even clear there's anything to discover about that day five years ago.
When truths to begin to come out: about Elsie, her diving, what's 'off' about Dillon, her father, her mother, the day Eddie died, and even more (though not in that order), it could seem like a lot but because it's all so tied to that one day, that one incident, it works.
I loved all that the author worked into this story and who Elsie's character was, who she became and how the people and circumstances around her changed both because of and independent of her, but with it all tying together so well.
digital copy received for review, from publisher, via NetGalley