Saturday, May 25, 2024

Breathing Underwater, by Abbey Lee Nash

Tess is well on her way to a swimming scholarship, dominance in the nationals, and even perhaps a slot on the Olympic team when she is slapped with a diagnosis of epilepsy.  It's a serious set back -- having a seizure while swimming could literally kill her.  Her Mom wants her to quit swimming altogether and it seems the sane thing to do, especially since her condition makes the type of intense training she is  undergoing particularly dangerous.  But competitive swimming has been her dream for years and finding a new dream seems impossible.

Billed as a romance because of a subplot involving an aimless boy who takes her lifeguarding job when she can no longer do it, this story is really about Tess's struggle to rejig her plans and salvage the vital parts of her dream that are attainable.  But it's hard to see the struggle and the focus necessary to succeed when Tess keeps screwing around.  Tess frankly lacks discipline.  I lost my faith in her by the third time she snuck out of the house and broke all of the warnings of her doctors (and -- surprise! -- got very sick).  If you face a protagonist up against an insurmountable disease, you need to give the woman some spunk, some fortitude, and some will. But screwing up and then wallowing in self-pity got plain old and that seemed to be all Tess had to offer.  I don't have the patience that her parents (or apparently her coaches) had.  On a bleak positive note, I appreciated that at the end of the novel we don't see Tess getting rewarded with the happyb fulfillment all of her dreams.  A realistic bittersweet ending was the least the author could offer us.

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