The Art of Not Breathing: ARC Review

Publication Date: April 26th, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Series: None
Format: e-ARC
Source: Netgalley

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.

Thank you Netgalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for granting me access to this title in exchange for an honest review. 

It makes me sad to give this book a not so stellar review because it had the potential to be really good. I was expecting a mystery death to be solved in a great way, but instead got let down. 

Elsie and her family are all royally messed up. They all have separate issues including: depression, anger, alcoholism, and bulimia/anorexia. Instead of talking to each other about their issues, they just go on with their daily lives, all the while oblivious to the issues around them. This was pretty sad, and caused major issues down the road. 

The characterization of the main family did nothing for me. I did not like a single one of them. Elsie herself was very closed off from everyone around her, including her family. She has no friends, and she gets bullied at school. This leads her to spend her time at a mostly abandoned boat house. Soon enough, she meets Tay and others that are fixing up the boathouse in order to make a dive school. She is wary of Tay at first, but then she starts developing feelings for him, even though she can tell that he is hiding something. Red flags galore! She also was so wrapped up with Tay that she left her sick brother by himself, even though she knew there was a risk that something would happen to him. 

Her brother was also not my favorite. His girlfriend's friends were tormenting Elsie and he did nothing about it. Even though the book makes it seem like he didn't know, there was one scene that made it clear that he did. His actions throughout the book were selfish as well, but so were Elsie's. 

Don't even get me started on their horrible and oblivious parents! I wanted to chuck the book when Elsie was thinking if her parents would notice her brother's drastic appearance change. Why didn't you speak up though? You could have prevented a lot of bad things from happening. Ugh. It made me so mad because as a reader I knew she wanted to, but she never did. 

Overall, each character was so wrapped up in themselves that they failed to see everyone around them self-destructing. Elsie alone saw everyone hurting, but she never spoke up about it. 

To be quite honest, The Art of Not Breathing was boring. It took me a long time to get into it and when I finally did, things got really confusing. The details surrounding Eddie's death were too choppy. I still have no idea what happened. Obviously he drowned, but Tay and Danny's involvement was so off. 

I did enjoy that Alexander wrote about an illness so many young women have but changed it so that a male character had it. You don't often hear about men having this illness, so it was nice to read about something different. On the other hand, I really wish each member of the main family had gotten treatment/counseling for their issues. Each one had their own mental illness, but these issues were sort of swept under the rug. 

I think that this story had a lot of potential, but bad characterization and a confusing ending really did not help. Too much was crammed into one book. 


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