April 12, 2016

Review: The Art of Not Breathing

The Art of Not Breathing
by Sarah Alexander
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 26th 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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. 
3/5 Stars

The Art of Not Breathing is about a girl named Elsie whose twin brother drowned 5 years ago. Elsie is still coping with this loss, and even five years later her has no closure and her family is still terribly fractured because of her brothers death. Elsie is overweight, has no friends, hallucinates her dead brother, and is filed with self loathing. I immediately didn’t like her. Not to mention she literally watched her brother and his girlfriend have sex...like uh...that's like, uber weird. Elsie also is such a passive narrator. There are these scenes that seem like they should be so emotionally charged but just aren't. The book follows Elsie trying to remember what happened when her brother died , but for some strange reason Elsie can only remember when she passes out? I'm sorry but HUH?!?! Is this an actual thing? If you pass out you'll magically remember stuff that happened 5 years ago?! I was not falling for that at all. 

My other issue with this book was the character of Tay. All of the sudden he comes along and he's different from other guys and he's super hot but he's also described as "ADHD" and "socially awkward" but that never comes across from his actions or dialogue. At one point Elsie is trying to figure out if he's autistic and I was honestly appalled at the ignorance of our main character. I work with autistic kids all over the spectrum and Elsie was seriously considering Tay being autistic when not a single thing he did or said demonstrated any type of autistic characteristic. I just really couldn't get over that.  Like, I know autism can manifest itself in many different ways, but there was absolutely no sign that Tay was autistic or had anything wrong with him. None of his dialogue or actions gave me any "socially awkward" vibes. The other thing was that something was wrong with Elsie's twin, it seemed like it was cerebral palsy, but it was never given a name, and even as a 16 year old Elsie was unable to put the pieces together and figure out what it was? It was just another thing that didn't sit well with me.

Now to some positives. I was very invested in finding out what really happened to Elsie's brother. Wholistically, this book reminded me a little of We Were Liars because it has the ocean and the beach involved and everything is shrouded in a sense of mystery. As soon as we got the first real info about what really happened I liked the book a lot more because the pace picked up, as in the beginning it was moving very slowly and I was very bored. I also loved the incorporation of free diving, which is diving really deep with no air source. I've never seen that in a YA before and I thought it was super cool and I want to try it now. (Except I would totally suck at it since I can only hold my breath for about 10 seconds lol).

Overall, I was not the biggest fan of this book and found it dragging at parts but I think the mystery/thriller aspect partially redeemed it for me. The ending felt forced to me and Elsie's narration was very flat.  


  1. I honestly heard some things about this book, and it seems good, but it's not what I like? I don't know, these kinda books just bore me to death... Anyway, it's sad not to love a book :/
    Maha @ Younicorn Reads

  2. I thought this book sounded really interesting when I read the synopsis but after reading your review I might give it a pass. Because Ahh I really need a good MC that I like, and she just sounds so unlikeable! Plus I feel like that passing out and remembering everything scene seems like a cop out. Thanks so much for reviewing and letting me know about this book, Sam!


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