Breathing Underwater and Diva are young adult books written by Alex Flinn.
Breathing Underwater follows Nick, a sixteen year old boy who is going to anger management classes after he beats up his girlfriend, Caitlin. The novel is told from Nick’s perspective as he writes in a court ordered journal and goes to anger management classes. There are also flashbacks of his relationship with Cailtin from their first meeting until their breakup.
Diva follows Caitlin as she goes to a new school, a high school for musically gifted kids and tries to move on from Nick and everything that happened.
Breathing Underwater covers a serious topic. I think Alex Flinn did a good job of portraying how an abusive relationship is. In this case, the manipulation, control and abuse on the males part and the fear, guilt and shame on the females part. Nick is in denial about his behavior. He doesn’t want Caitlin to hang out with her friends, just his, he tells her what to wear and calls her fat. He won’t even admit that he beat her up, he only says that he slapped her once. Caitlin loves him and makes excuses everytime he yells at her, she feels bad for him because his father is abusive to him, she does everything he asks to keep him from getting angry and when he does get mad at her, she blames herself because of course it has to be her fault.
At the beginning of his classes, Nick says he didn’t do anything and that he doesn’t belong in the class, but at the end of the class he realizes that he has a problem and needs to get the help so that he can fix it. He also stands up to his dad and tries to put his friendships back together. My only issue with the book was the way it seemed that Nick changed so quickly, that part just didn’t seem realistic to me.
Diva takes place after Caitlin breaks up with Nick and gets a restraining order on him. She applies to go to a high school for musically gifted students, in part to get away from Nick. This novel is all about Caitlin and told from her point of view. She writes a blog telling about Nick and leaving her old school and starting her new school. She ends up making a couple of close friends and tells them about Nick and they are supportive.
Nick makes a couple of appearances in Diva but not enough to really know if he has made any real changes. That’s one of the things I disliked about the book. I would have liked to see if Nick really was trying or if it was just talk. I also wish that this book told more about Caitlin’s experience and what it wad like for her to be in that relationship. I would love to have a Breathing Underwater from Cailtin’s point of view. Another thing I didn’t like was that Caitlin had a crush on a student at her new school and was open to starting a new relationship. The whole time I was thinking “you just ended a relationship with a boy who beat you up, why would you want to jump into another one so soon?” I just can’t see that happening in real life, but I’ve never been in an abusive relationship so maybe it is possible?
For the most part I really enjoyed the books and liked reading something of Alex Flinn’s that wasn’t a fairytale retelling. I gave both books 4 stars on Goodreads.