Breathe and Count Back from Ten

- Natalia Sylvester

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Verónica has had many surgeries to manage her disability. The best form of rehabilitation is swimming, so she spends hours in the pool, but not just to strengthen her body.

Her Florida town is home to Mermaid Cove, a kitschy underwater attraction where professional mermaids perform in giant tanks . . . and Verónica wants to audition. But her conservative Peruvian parents would never go for it. And they definitely would never let her be with Alex, her cute new neighbor.

She decides it’s time to seize control of her life, but her plans come crashing down when she learns her parents have been hiding the truth from her—the truth about her own body.


My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Clarion Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

solid, good read:
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Breathe and Count Back from Ten, just based on the cover and the synopsis, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

Breathe and Count Back from Ten tells a simple story of a teenage girl who wants to be a mermaid, but the complexity and the interest are all in the details. Since Verónica was young, she’s been in awe of the mermaid performers at Mermaid Cove and has always dreamed of becoming one of them. As someone with hip dysplasia, she has learned to find herself in the water and finds solace in swimming. But, while her sister and best friend push her to follow her dream, and even her mother is supportive in a quiet way, her father is strongly opposed to the idea. And when her father makes a decision, that is the final word.

In the water, chlorine tastes like peace and movement becomes freedom. Nobody notices my limp or scars, nobody stares as I move past them. Gravity is so much kinder here. Water is home.

It’s rare to have a disability central to a narrative and for it to be discussed so openly and honestly. We learn about Verónica’s pain, her experiences in hospitals and with anaesthesia from a young age, and how it impacts her day-to-day experiences and her plans for the future. There’s an insight into how she views herself and the interactions she has learned to expect from others, particularly new acquaintances. I can’t speak to the validity of these experiences from my own perspective, but they felt real to me.

Here, it seems everyone gets to be whole but me. They get to be seen for who they are, not for what they aren't. They get to be defined by the things they do instead of the things they don't. Meanwhile, I get split into all these little pieces: Peruvian. Disabled. Immigrant. Fragmented as if I couldn't possibly be everything all at once, and more.

While I did find Verónica’s father to be incredibly overbearing throughout the story, there’s no question that he cares for her and is a good father. Everything he does is to support her, right down to the job he does to ensure the health care she needs for her many surgeries and medical appointments.

A simple story beautifully told from a unique (to popular fiction, not to the general population) perspective – I would highly recommend Breathe and Count Back from Ten

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