Happy Tuesday ya’ll! Today I’m reviewing Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab. An emotional YA romance about competitive high school swimmers, first love, and mental health.
About Breath Like Water
I received this book for free from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Title: Breath Like Water
Author: Anna Jarzab
Pub. Date: May 19, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, W/M, Young Adult
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“Expansive, romantic, and powerful.” —Gayle Forman, #1
New York Times
bestselling author of
If I Stay
I Have Lost My Way
Susannah Ramos has always loved the water. A swimmer whose early talent made her a world champion, Susannah was poised for greatness in a sport that demands so much of its young. But an inexplicable slowdown has put her dream in jeopardy, and Susannah is fighting to keep her career afloat when two important people enter her life: a new coach with a revolutionary training strategy, and a charming fellow swimmer named Harry Matthews.
As Susannah begins her long and painful climb back to the top, her friendship with Harry blossoms into passionate and supportive love. But Harry is facing challenges of his own, and even as their bond draws them closer together, other forces work to tear them apart. As she struggles to balance her needs with those of the people who matter most to her, Susannah will learn the cost—and the beauty—of trying to achieve something extraordinary.
Excerpt from Breath Like Water:
1,063 days until US Olympic Team Trials
FINA World Aquatics Championships
Women’s 200m Intermediate Medley Finals
The water is breathing. At least, that’s how it seems. I’ve always imagined it as a living thing, benevolent and obedient and faithful. A gentle beast at first, like a pony, but over time something faster. A thoroughbred, maybe. A cheetah sprinting across a flat, grassy plain.
But, of course, the water isn’t breathing—it’s rippling, with the echoing wakes of eight elite swimmers as they poured themselves into one last swim, one final chance to grab the golden ring. Now they’re gone, and in half a minute, I’ll be right where they were, reaching for my own shot at glory.
This is my first international competition. I turned fourteen in May, so I’m the youngest member of Team USA. In January, nobody knew who I was, but by my birthday I’d broken the women’s 200 IM record in my age group twice and finished first in the same event—my best—at World Championship Trials. My summer of speed earned me a lane here in Budapest. All I have to do now is not screw it up.
Earlier, in the semifinals, I clocked my fastest time ever in this event, and I’m coming into finals seeded third overall. I have to beat that by almost a second if I want to win.
The announcer introduces me over the loudspeaker. I wave to the crowd but my mind is far away, already in the pool, charting out my swim. I shake out my limbs and jump to get my blood pumping, then climb onto the block. I adjust my goggles, my cap, my shoulders. These little rituals feel solid and reliable. The rest is as insubstantial as a dream you’re aware of while you’re dreaming it.
“Take your mark—”
The signal sounds and I’m in the pool. My mind lags half a second behind my body, registering every breath, stroke and turn only after it happens.
First: butterfly, arms soaring over the water, fingertips skimming the surface.
Then: backstroke, concentrating on the lines in the ceiling while waves boil around me.
After that: breaststroke, stretching, pulling, kicking, gliding.
And finally: freestyle, bursting off the wall like a racehorse released from a starting gate.
I go six strokes without taking a breath and snap into my highest gear for a mad-dash last push, coasting along the razor’s edge of my perfectly timed taper. No thinking, just doing. No drag, only flight.
My hand touches the wall, and my eyes begin to burn. It’s over. Instinctively, I look for my coach. Dave’s on the side¬lines, frowning, and I think: I blew it.
He notices me watching and breaks into a rare grin. Hopeful, I turn to the board. I can’t find my name, so I force my¬self to look at the top spot. There it is: RAMOS. Number freaking one.
I whoop and blow kisses at the people in the stands. They’re on their feet, chanting, “USA! USA!” American flags billow like sheets.
It cost my parents a fortune to fly themselves and my sister all the way to Europe on such short notice, credit cards stretched to their limits. I can’t even see them in the crowd, but I know they’re somewhere in that jubilant crush of people. My heart feels so full it’s like a balloon about to pop.
As soon as I’m out of the water, Dave wraps me in a bear hug.
“How do you feel?” he asks.
“Great!” I sigh and shake out my arms. “Tired.”
“Gold, Susannah,” he says. His voice is tight with some¬thing like awe.
Gold. It doesn’t feel real yet—won’t, until that medal hangs around my neck, until I can hold it in my hands while the national anthem blooms through the natatorium speakers with patriotic brio. Maybe not even then. I could have more wins here, but right now, this seems like more than enough.
“You’re a world champion,” Dave says. “Next, I’m going to make you an Olympian.”
Excerpted from Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab, Copyright © 2020 by Anna Jarzab. Published by Inkyard Press.
IMHO: Breath Like Water
I love Susannah. She’s a stubborn focused anxiety ridden athlete. Her family is amazingly supportive and all around awesome. She’s got two main friends, fellow swimmers.
Harry is adorable. Charming, goofy, and I love their conversations. The connection is so plain to see from their first meeting, no one can say they don’t see it this time. Their relationship isn’t typical, but it’s got all the hallmarks of teen love. And I mean that in the best way. They do a lot of growing, as individuals and a couple.
Dave her coach is a goddamn douchebag. It gets dealt with and pushed back on in the story. The new assistant coach Beth is incredible though. Not the typical ballbuster woman bulldozing her way through. She’s got quiet strength, confidence, and a revolutionary way of coaching, which totally should be the goddamn norm.
I fucking LOVE how mental health is handled in Breath Like Water. Head-on. Frank but gentle and considerate conversations. Feelings are valid and allowed to be felt. It’s my favorite part honestly though it’s a tight race with the character growth and the ending.
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Favorite [Non-Spoiler] Quotes:
She gave me a look of such deep disappointment I felt like a fairy-tale character who’d failed a test of faith.
“Wanting air is not the same thing as needing it,” she tells us.
I never forgot how much wealthier JEssa’s and Amber’s families are than mine, but it’s less conspicuous in the pool.
My heather falls out of my chest and splatters onto the sidewalk like a water balloon.
I continue, grasping at thoughts as they streak through my brain like fireworks across an open sky, letting them tumble out of my mouth before they can explode and fizzle into nothing.
Jessa’s always been flinty–there’s a fine line between sarcastic and mean, and she was born on it–but she’s not usually vindictive.
“Yeah, ” I reply. “Joy.” And maybe a splash of vengeance.
Then he walks off, and I can almost see the last remaining shreds of my dignity clinging to his shoes like toilet paper.