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Breathing Underwater Paperback – May 10, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 189 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It was only a slap. Well, maybe more than one. And maybe Nick used his fist at the end when the anger got out of control. But his girlfriend Caitlin deserved it--hadn't she defied him by singing in the school talent show when he had forbidden her to display herself like that? Even though he'd told her that everybody would laugh at her because she couldn't sing and was a fat slob? Both were lies. Because Caitlin was so beautiful, the only person who understood him. Out of his desperate need for her came all the mean words and the hitting. But now Caitlin's family has procured a restraining order to keep Nick away, and the judge has sentenced him to Mario Ortega's Family Violence class, to sit around every week with six other angry guys who hit their girlfriends. And to write a journal explaining how he got into this mess.

Other teen novels--most strikingly Dreamland by Sarah Dessen--have shown dating violence from the point of view of a young girl trapped in an abusive relationship, but in Breathing Underwater, first-time novelist Alex Flinn tackles the difficult task of making us understand, if not sympathize with, the motivation of a violent young man. The story, like Rob Thomas's stylistically similar Rats Saw God, proceeds in two different time frames: the journal in which Nick relives the course of his tender but stormy love affair with Caitlin and the time after the restraining order, in which a desperate and friendless Nick struggles to understand and overcome his anger. This extraordinarily moving novel is highly relevant reading for all young men in our violence-prone society. (Ages 13 and older) --Patty Campbell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In what PW called "a gripping tale," a 16-year-old, who is considered perfect by his classmates, suffers a turbulent home life with an abusive father, and he himself follows the pattern of violence. Ages 13-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; Reprint edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064472574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064472579
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alex Flinn was born in Syosset, New York. She learned to read at three and wanted to be a writer at five. She received her first rejection letter (from Highlights magazine) at eight. At twelve, her family moved to Miami, Florida, where she had a really hard time making friends, due to congenital shyness and a really bad haircut. So she read a lot and tried to write a novel but never finished because she had no idea what to write about.

Flinn attended a performing arts high school program, similar to that portrayed in her book, Diva, then majored in vocal performance in college. Panicked upon realizing that there weren't a whole lot of jobs for opera singers, Flinn went to law school.

Law school was, it turns out a really good place to learn to write for teenagers. Writing for teens and writing for judges are very similar because both judges and teens have a lot of demands on their time and minimal time for reading. Also, Flinn interned at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, trying many domestic violence cases, which were later the inspiration for her first novel, Breathing Underwater.

Breathing Underwater was published in 2001. It received many honors, including being chosen a Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association. It was followed by Breaking Point, Nothing to Lose, Fade to Black, Diva, and Beastly. Beastly is soon to be released as a motion picture. Her newest book is A Kiss in Time, a modern Sleeping Beauty.

Flinn still lives in Miami with her husband, two daughters, a dog, cat, and African Spur-Thighed Tortoise. She enjoys performing arts, biking, and travel.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Nick Andreas has just been served a restraining order from the person he loves the most in the world. After beating his girlfriend, the sixteen-year-old offender finds himself attending group therapy and writing in a journal about the things he's done. He's the son of an abuser, and it looks like that abuse has surfaced within himself. The question is, can Nick recognize what he's done? More importantly, can he change?
The premise is a complex one. Author Alex Flinn set out to write about an abusive relationship from the abuser's point of view. Now how do you go about doing that, exactly? How do you write a story in which the reader has to simultaneously empathize with and abhor the protagonist? The fact of the matter is, Flinn is so adept with her writing skills that she gets away with it. The result is phenomenal.
The real strength of this story is the way in which the plot arcs and fools the reader. Nick is hardly a reliable narrator (a fact that becomes painfully clear by the end of the story). Yet when he writes in his journal, he feels unaccountably unable to lie about anything that happened. Flinn slowly brings the plot in the journal, and the story of how Nick lives in the aftermath of his own violence, together by the book's end. She does not compromise her position either. As a woman who served as a lawyer trying domestic violence cases and as a volunteer at the Inn Transition facility for battered women and their kids, she knows from whence she speaks. This isn't an author who is speculating on what violence does to families and friends. She knows. Better still, she can write about it.
This isn't a perfect book, I suppose. Some jumps in the plot are implausible. Some characters inconsistent. But what flaws it has only serve to show how strong the story itself is. There is no book on how abusers feel that is as available and accessible to young adults as "Breathing Underwater". You will never regret having read it.
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Format: Paperback
It's hard reading a book where the main character is unlikeable, and Nick is most definitely unlikeable. Although the first person narrative makes it a little easier to accept Nick. Flinn has done a good job of not only showing what an abusive relationship is and how it fuels itself (controlling behavior from insecurities preying on someone elses insecurities, reinforced by an I'll do anything if you don't hurt me again response -- to simplify it way too much). But more impressive, she has shown how someone can grow and start to move on -- convincingly. This isn't a "it's for teens so I have to find a silver lining" type ending. Nick has a long way to go at the end of the book. Everything isn't magically better, but there is a plan.
Also Flinn's details, events, background stories of the characters clearly come from her experiences working with people in similar situations. Even her wildest story -- Leo becoming a puppet abuser (i.e. his father is pulling the strings) is very believable, at least to me, because I know someone whose father made him do horrible, abusive things to his sister.
Painful, yet healing book to read, about something that both teens and adults need to be aware of.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an exceptionally compassionate, yet realistic story of one young man's unconscious choice to follow in his father's footsteps, and the consequences it has on his life. A series of physical outbursts against his girlfriend (not to mention ongoing verbal assault) land Nick in court, and he finds himself without the support of family or friends. With the help of a counseling program, and a journal assignment from the judge, Nick tries to figure out how he became a person he neither likes nor understands. Given its subject matter, any success Breathing Underwater achieves almost assures that controversy will follow. That said, it is my opinion that it should be mandatory reading at Junior High level, and stacks of copies should be donated to crisis centers, women's shelters, and child abuse prevention programs everywhere.
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Format: Hardcover
The book Breathing Underwater, is about 16-year-old Nick Andrews who is one of those guys who you would think has it all. He is rich, good looking, has little parent supervision, to a 16 year old boy that's everything, he's athletic, and a straight-A student. But what people think isn't always true. Nick and his father wouldn't win family of the year. His father abuses him, and there is nothing he can do about it. He is going out with the prettiest girl in the grade, Caitlin, at least she has been beautiful since she got back from fat camp the summer before. The best part about their relationship is that they are both wild about each other. Everything seems to be going well, until he hits her and she files a restraining order on him. After that he lost everything that was ever important to him; Caitlin, his friends, his respect, and his popularity. He has to take classes and write in a journal of what happened between Caitlin and him; for punishment. He also loses all ways of communication with Caitlin. In his classes he unwillingly learns a part of him that he never knew he had. In the journal Nick writes, he explains everything that happens from the first time he ever saw Caitlin, up to when and why she filled the restraining order on him.
Breathing Underwater was a very good book. My favorite character was Nick. Even though he was abusive I still enjoyed reading about what happened to him on his bumpy road of life. The book was a good story and I found it hard to put it down. I liked the book also because it was a story on something that happens more then people may think it does. And I think this book teaches kids that, sadly, abuse does happen often between couples. The book was also a good story and I found it hard to put it down. I think you should read Breathing Underwater. It is very good and it is the kind of book that every type of person would like!
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