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Reviewed by:
  • Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen
  • Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Allen, Sarah Breathing Underwater. Farrar, 2021 [224p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780374313258 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780374313265 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 5–7

Three years ago, Olivia’s family moved to Tennessee from California, and Olivia and her older sister Ruth made an adventure of it with a Treasure Hunt along the way. Now Olivia is thirteen, and she and her sister Ruth are joining their grownup cousins (more like aunt and uncle) on an RV trip back west. As a budding photographer, Olivia’s excited about the chance to take some amazing pictures; as a worried sister, Olivia is hoping the trip and the connection to happy memories will help lift the depression Ruth has long battled. As they stop in locations such as New Orleans, Houston, and Las Cruces, Olivia begins to realize how exhausting her eternal vigilance about Ruth is, how lost her own life has been in Ruth’s shadow, and how much she misses the palpable bond with her sister of that previous journey. Olivia’s eager narrative voice makes her sound approachably younger than her years, and her account believably blends a fairly advanced understanding of Ruth’s depression, a legitimate frustration with Ruth’s self-absorption, and also an unquenchable hope. Ruth is credible in her occasional softening toward Olivia, and it’s also authentic that even Ruth’s normal teenage rebellions (she gets a tattoo in New Orleans) are magnified through the lens of the situation. It’s heartening to see a book that acknowledges the strain on a disability-shadowed sibling, and readers familiar with the experience will be glad to see Olivia firmly centered in the picture.



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p. 289
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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