Book Review: The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

the art of not breathing


Title: The Art of Not Breathing
Author: Sarah Alexander
Published in: 2016
Pages: 288
Genres: contemporary fiction, mystery, realistic fiction, mental health/mental illness


“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.”

-from Goodreads

My Review

Elsie Main’s twin brother, Eddie drowned five years ago in the North Shore. To this day, she still can’t fully remember what happened that day. Now she sneaks around and hangs out around the boathouse on the beach near the harbor. It’s there where she meets Tay McKenzie. He introduces her to freediving, diving under water without any equipment. When she starts to free dive, she is able to remember more about what happened the day Eddie died and finds out secrets about her family.

I found Elsie to be generally a likeable character especially considering she’s dealing with grief. But in some scenes, I found her to be selfish. Elsie found out her older brother, Dillion, had anorexia. Instead of telling someone to get help, she kept it a secret. Later she used to get him not to tell their parents about her swimming in the harbor by threatening to tell them he was anorexic if he told them about her free diving (ever since Eddie died, they have not been allowed to go in the water). When her older brother is hospitalized after his anorexia made him very sick, she acted like he was doing it on purpose and just to make everything harder for everyone else. It’s like she couldn’t quite see his struggle or at least try to sympathize with him.

I thought the plot was good and the mystery kept me interested. For me, the best scenes were the ones she had flashbacks to the day Eddie died. I liked how the memories came in parts and eventually were all pieced together at the end rather than coming in all at once.

By the end of the book, Elsie learned some surprising secrets about her family and Tay. I don’t want to reveal what they are, but I thought they were shocking. Elsie and her family also started going to counseling sessions, both one on one and as a family, to help with everything they were dealing with especially about how they feel about that day and Dillion’s struggle with anorexia. In the rest of the ending, it showed them moving on and I felt this wrapped up story very well.

Overall I thought the Art of Not Breathing was a good book and would recommend it for someone looking for a book about grief, a mystery, or a contemporary novel.

Rating: 4/5 Stars


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