Breathing Under Water by Sophie Hardcastle
Published July 12, 2016 by Hachette
Source: ARC from the publisher
Rating: 3 stars
From the blurb: Ben and Grace Walker are twins. Growing up in a sleepy coastal town it was inevitable they'd surf. Always close, they hung out more than most brothers and sisters, surfing together for hours as the sun melted into the sea. At seventeen, Ben is a rising surf star, the golden son and the boy all the girls fall in love with. Beside him, Grace feels like she is a mere reflection of his light. In their last year of school, the world beckons, full of possibility. For Grace, finishing exams and kissing Harley Matthews is just the beginning.
Then, one day, the unthinkable. The sun sets at noon and suddenly everything that was safe and predictable is lost. And everything unravels.
Breathing Under Water is Sophie Hardcastle's debut novel, set in the fictional coastal town of Marlow. Seventeen year old twins, Grace and Ben live with their parents, a high school teacher and a surfboard maker. Both love to surf and while there's no doubt that Ben will go pro, Grace always feels stuck in his shadow, always second best.
This is a beautifully written book, but it did take me a while to warm to it. Grace is quite a passive character. She allows events to happen around her, she constantly compares herself to Ben, and to her best friend, Mia. When it comes to Ben she feels ignored at home, at school, when surfing. Her dad has one set of rules for Ben, but another for Grace. When she compares herself to Mia, she feels inadequate because she hasn't developed breasts yet, because she's not as bubbly and open, because she's not as popular. The idea of Grace being easily ignored and inferior was really hammered home in the first part of the book, and while it helped to sell what happens later, it felt a bit heavy handed.
The fact that an accident, and possibly a death, was going to occur, hung over the story and each time the kids went for a surf I was anticipating what I thought would happen. When it does finally happen, it occurs off screen, this felt anticlimactic. And this feeling was one of my main issues with the story. I feel like some scenes were cut out on purpose, to perhaps create mystery, but instead it felt like there were things that needed to be dealt with that are left ignored. If it's implied a character gets raped, I expect some fall out from that. For a start it was never clear if that is what occurred and then it's never discussed, by the victim, by the friends or family.
What happens after the accident felt both realistic and slightly unbelievable in parts. I really thought Grace's mum would have noticed her daughter's school attendance, she's a teacher herself and surely the school would have contacted her more. But, perhaps this is why Grace's lack of importance within the family was highlighted so much at the beginning, and now that Ben is gone, she still doesn't register on her mum's radar.
I will mention that I was sent an advanced reading copy (an ARC) so perhaps things were changed in the final edition.
The ending was able to bring me back to the story, I was happy with the resolution, it was very emotional and filled with hope.
Thank you to Hachette for the ARC.