BREATHING UNDERWATER

Alex Flinn, Author . HarperCollins $15.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-029198-3

"Ever feel like you're breathing underwater, and you have to stop because you're gulping in too much fluid?" For 16-year-old Nick Andreas, these words from his violence counselor ring true. While his classmates think of him as rich, popular and perfect, they don't know the truth about his turbulent home life with an abusive father. As Flinn's first novel opens, Nick finds himself in court, facing a restraining order by his girlfriend, Caitlin. He is sentenced to six months of counseling and to write 500 words per week in a journal, explaining what happened from the day he met Caitlin to the present. Set in Miami and told in a split narrative, the novel juxtaposes Nick's journal entries about his past relationship with Caitlin alongside the current challenges of going back to school with his friends turned against him, his counseling sessions and life with his father. Gradually, he begins to recognize his own responsibility in how events played out ("Somehow, when I see it on paper, it becomes more real than when it's just in my head"). The correlation between Nick's controlling behavior and his father's abuse is subtle but effective. Caitlin's insecurity, borne of self-image problems due to a previous weight problem and her beautiful mother's badgering, is also credibly rendered. The ending scene with Nick's best friend rings a bit hollow, but as Nick's past comes to light, both the circumstances and his owning up to his actions carry heavy emotional weight in this gripping tale. Ages 13-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/23/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-8072-0685-0
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-0-7393-8069-7
Prebound-Sewn - 263 pages - 978-0-7569-1356-4
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-8072-0686-7
Library Binding - 263 pages - 978-0-06-029199-0
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-06-447257-9
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-25730-5
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-06-220820-0
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