Review: Breathing Under Water by Sophie Hardcastle

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

30151298Breathing Under Water by Sophie Hardcastle
Released: 12th July 2016
Published by: Hachette Autralia
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 310
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
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.
Thank you to Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Sophie Hardcastle's debut novel is at once effortlessly melodic and powerful;a story of grief, healing and moving forward when the unthinkable occurs. This YA contemporary novel is a stand-out in #LoveOzYA, and definitely will hold its place as one of my top recommended reads of the year! 

I listen to the tumble of each white wash, feel the pull of the tides, the bubble of undercurrents, taste the salt and smell the foam. I imagine all the creatures that have lived and died in this blue body. 

Ben and Grace are twins growing up in a coastal town where being in the water is second nature. Both surfers, they compete together and bond over each other's successes, even if Ben is drifting further as a rising star. Hardcastle has captured this sibling dynamic in all its complexities, along with the very essence of the Walker family. Each and every character is well developed, their weaknesses and struggles depicted in a way which makes them both relatable and so real. With the aftermath of a tragedy to contend with, it was fascinating to see how everyone coped - by either acting out, retreating into a shell or simply being indifferent. What I love about this book is how it portrays the intensity of such strong emotions with a sensitivity and nuance that is completely fitting. There is no 'quick fix', and perhaps it seems that the stages of pain and anguish are necessary to finally reconcile with the past and move forward, more assured of your identity once more; even in the absence of somebody who will be missed. 

The night is so still the sea has turned to glass. As I dip my toes in the water, a wave kisses my ankles. I close my eyes as I wade through time and my mind starts to drift with the tides. During the day, we see ourselves relative to others. We know our place. But out here, cloaked in shadows, my place in the universe is impossible to define. I am stardust, yet I breathe.  

While there is a potential romance on the horizon for Grace, I was glad to note that it didn't in any way supersede the key themes of the novel. The young adults themselves in this book truly take the stage with all their escapades, mistakes, and navigation of the different relationships in their lives. From a tricky situation developing between best friends who seem to be drifting apart, to seeking an escape in the wrong places - I think teens will have a lot to take away from this book. Everyone had their own voice in this novel, and when set against such a beautifully described backdrop, this made for a read that I was completely ensconced in from beginning to end. 

Then I hear her, the ocean - singing. My body sways in purple sea currents, as her melody, a cradlesong, serenades me. I feel blood pulling in my chest like the tides and remember I am still alive. I exist


In all, Breathing Under Water blew me out of the water. Hardcastle deserves high praise for this debut which ebbs and flows with the intricacies of healing and coming up for air after being submerged in the depths of grief. 

1 comment :

  1. It's definitely a very powerful book. But I don't know, it felt kind of disjointed somehow. Still, I definitely want to read Running Like China (Running With China? I can't remember). Awesome review :) :)


Feel free to leave a comment below - I love reading them!