THE ART OF NOT BREATHING BY SARAH ALEXANDER

Woah. I think that is the word that sums up this debut YA novel from Sarah Alexander. After being gifted by Goodreads with this novel, I started reading it as soon as I had closed the pages of my previous book. The themes that were surrounding this book were ones that drew me in and I instantly knew that I wanted to know so much more about Elsie and her family. Written in  a style that meant I could fly through the book, without breathing much in between, this is honestly a book that most should pick up and experience. The hurt, torment, growth and development within this book is what carries it on an extremely high pedestal for me.

Five years ago Elsie’s twin brother Eddie disappeared and drowned, and Elsie is still haunted by the missing memory as to what actually happened to her brother on that fateful date. Giving up on school and pleasing her family, Elsie carries the memory of her brother with her everywhere. She finds sanctuary in an abandoned boat, away from the guilt and pressure. Seventeen year old Tay also occupies the abandoned boathouse and when their paths cross Tay offers Elsie to free dive with him. Underneath the water fear turns to bliss and Elsie vows to unravel the secrets surrounding her brother’s disappearance.

As soon as I read the first page, that was it. I knew I was hooked. There was no punches pulled in the opening, and the tone was one that immediately drew me in. The dark mind set of Elsie was one that was established right away and I liked that I could understand her mind set without having her feelings masked with a false sense of security. The humanity is exposed was one that I appreciated being let in on from the get go.

The blurb of this book did not it justice. Honestly, the variantion of themes and the deep tones explored in this YA novel are just sensational. They aren’t over bearing or thrown at you all at once. They are dealt out slowly and in manageable pieces, with enough delicacy so that they aren’t just placed for sheer shock value to simply twist the narrative. This approach is that I applaud and one that Sarah Alexander has managed terrifically well. The storyline I thoroughly thought was well done was Dillion’s anorexia and the torment it caused him, without it actually being from his perspective. These parts were written in such a way that parts of it were hard to read. That is when you know you’ve hit a good book.

To start with, I wasn’t sure if I liked the character of Elsie. She wasn’t portrayed as a character that is to liked instantly as she is very self deprecating and self loathing. The further on in the novel, my love towards Elsie grew as she grew to love herself. I don’t think she’s a character that you can end up admiring or aspiring to be, but a kind of affection is created as you want to see her grow, as well as discover what happened to Eddie so she can start to live herself and others around her again. I found her relationship with Tay okay at points, but a little bit toxic. She put him before herself and this grinded me a bit. Tay seemed like an okay character, flaky at times but also a good catalyst to Elsie. I’m glad that although he was a focus, he flitted in and out as I believe he could have got tiresome.

Dillion, I think, was my favourite character in the novel. I liked the relationship he had with Elsie and what a calming presence he could have on her. His reactions were the ones I wanted to keep reading about, and found him fascinating. Sarah Alexander’s decision to give him anorexia was a brave one, and the position we were given to see it unfold was one I hadn’t experienced before. Given he was male was also a perspective I appreciated.

Sarah Alexander’s writing style was one that I loved. It engrossed me in and keep me ready. I sped through the book and the pace was constant, even when time stood still. Everything flowed, and characters were unveiled in a beautiful manner. A style like this made me want to read on and on. There will be no hesitation picking up her next book, whatever it may be.

For a book that was provided by Goodreads, it was an absolute stunner. Beautifully written and covering delicate topics with such ease whilst keeping me interested the entire time. I think I have found a new YA love.

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