Book: Flinn, Alex. Breathing Underwater. New York: Harper Collins, 2001
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: 7th – 10th
Summary: Nick Andreas has life made for him. Currently he is a sixteen year old student at High School who is living the dream- he’s popular, he’s handsome, and he has just gotten his dream girl, Caitlin, to agree to be his girlfriend. To all his classmates and his family, Nick is the ideal student and the role model for the entire school. However in reality, Nick is on the verge of losing control over everything. On the inside, Nick has a raging anger that threatens to burst through and ruin his life. Soon, his charade falls apart and Nick’s demon breaks free and Nick shows his true self to Caitlin when he blows up and physically assaults her. Nick faces the decision to accept his anger problem and learn to fight it head on or live in denial with the demon and watch as it slowly consumes his life.
Themes: Control is probably the first theme that comes to mind after reading this book. Nick tries to control all of the events in this book- he wants to control himself, the classmates around him, and of course the teachers around him. Understanding what events you can and cannot control around you is essential to every piece of Young Adult Literature. Knowing what you are responsible for and how to respond to these events is what composes our identity. Nick himself is struggling with control throughout this book on a variety of levels. I appreciate Nick’s character development, as many characters in Young Adult fiction are two dimensional and usually quite heroic in nature. Alex Flinn instead chose to give Nick the more realistic firecracker devil-may-care attitude that is all too common in teenagers today.
Deception is another theme in this book. Nick is so convinced of what he wants that has failed to recognize the way things really are. Nick deceives himself, denying the idea that he has a problem at all. Nick’s deception doesn’t just occur with himself either. In the beginning of the book, everyone believes that Nick is the ‘person-to-be.’ The simple charade that Nick has developed for himself is slowly pulled away to reveal his
Connections: Not many connections are present in this book that would make this a prime tool in the classroom. However, Flinn has written a main character with many layers of depth, something good writers excel at. Looking at the many choices Nick is presented with would be a good time to look at character development.
Reactions: I wasn’t a big fan of the book. It was alright, but rather moody and I’m not a fan of a character making all the wrong choices when I know the right one he should make. That’s the reason I gave this book a Jr. High audience rating- I would think that although it would be relatable to some Upperclassman at the High School, a subject like this is pretty elementary when it comes to literature.
“This is an intense and realistic view of dating violence and the consequences of one’s actions. The author has an excellent grasp on the adolescent mind, heart, and language. The dialogue, the main character’s thoughts, and the journal entries all read like a teenager wrote it. It is well written, has a strong message, and teenagers will be able to relate to it. Although there is a racial mix of characters in the family violence class, the novel is written from the point of view of a rich, Caucasian boy and therefore some students may have difficulty relating to it.” – by BooksR4Teens.com