ARC Review: The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

Title: The Art of Not Breathing
Author: Sarah Alexander
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published:  April 26th, 2016
Page Count:  288 pages
Format:  eARC
Source: From publisher via 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. 
*The Reader's Review*
My rating: 3/5 stars

The Art of Not Breathing is a sad story about a girl named Elsie that's trying to come to terms with the death of her twin brother on the beach five years ago. As someone who's not entirely sure of what happened on that day, she still holds a strong connection with Eddie, to the point of feeling him with her. Isolation, a broken family, and a strong fear of moving on  without knowing is what drives Elsie to seek out the answers that everyone is trying hard to keep, and what eventually leads her to discover a new world to love in her deepest fear.

Summary aside, I have to say that I'm quite torn about this book. On the one hand, I liked the main characters (Elsie and her older brother) and I truly felt for their pain, confusion and low self-esteems. They were raw and imperfect. Totally messed up, and understandably why. The pain of losing a brother, a dysfunctional family that has no way of getting better,  plus weight/health problems driven by society standards is enough to make the strongest person lose its shine, so right from the start I felt this need to protect them and hope that by each passing page, they would somehow find closure and a bit of happiness.  

On the other hand, I feel that this story needed better supporting characters. Some of them were just there. They didn't add any real value to what was a good story and I sadly couldn't make myself care for them. Not even the love interest, Tay. He was just too bland. Mysterious, but not really important.

For me, The Art of Not Breathing could have done well on its own without adding a romance into the story. Ignoring that side, I liked reading about the fragile relationship between Elsie and her older brother, Dillon. How they loved each other, and Eddie, and tried to keep face despite how everything was horribly wrong. I would have loved more them time inside the story. 

So on the long run, this book turned out to be an okay read with its ups and downs. It's not really memorable when it comes to settings (I only seem to picture a deserted beach for some reason), but it is with its main characters and the delicate themes it deals with including: bulimia, family conflicts, alcohol abuse, and violence. With that said, I would classify this as upper YA.


  1. You sound like you felt pretty much like I did. It was just okay, could have been better. Nice review, Meli!

    1. Yeah, wish I could have loved it more! But alas, you were right.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! This book is on my tbr list. I may keep it but won't go in with high expectations.

    1. Yup, better go in with an open mind! Maybe you do end up enjoying it, who knows? :)