Breath Like Water

Inkyard. May 2020. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335050236.
Gr 9 Up–Jarzab’s latest offers an incisive and unflinching look at competitive swimming in this powerful and compelling sports-themed YA. Susannah Ramos is a world champion, but doesn’t much feel like one since she had a growth spurt that has slowed her down. In the year leading up to the Olympic trials, Susannah struggles to regain her speed in the water, all while dealing with her controlling coach’s expectations and the huge amount of pressure she places on herself. Then she meets Harry. Susannah falls hard for the new, handsome swimmer, but their complicated relationship might be too much for them to bear as stress mounts on all sides. Readers will appreciate this stark depiction of the price competitive sports exacts from athletes, both mentally and physically. Susannah’s Mexican heritage is thoughtfully portrayed, and her family is multifaceted and well developed. Jarzab gently yet thoroughly tackles mental illness, hospitalization, and a suicide attempt, with care and not graphically. Sex takes place, but not on the page. Fans of Miranda Kenneally and Gayle Forman will find much to love here.
VERDICT A gripping and unapologetic look at the rigor of Olympic sports, this title will win fans whether they’re sports buffs or not.

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