The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander


If someone told me that I wouldn’t enjoy a book about diving then I would have just laughed in their face and told them they didn’t know what they were on about. I love swimming, I love the water. My parents always joked that I was a fish. Water is my affinity.

The Art of Not Breathing is about free-diving: an extreme sport where you dive underwater for as long as possible, and to do this, you have to learn how to hold your breath for a long time. The main character is this book manages four minutes.

Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach. One minute Eddie was there, and the next he was gone. Seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie is a cute and mysterious boy that Elsie meets in her favorite boathouse hangout. When Tay introduces Elsie to the world of freediving, she vows to find the answers she seeks at the bottom of the sea.

It took me about three weeks to read this book which – for me – is a very very long time. I normally finish a book this size in one or two days so three weeks… It felt like the longest three weeks of my life. I don’t know what it was, I just really couldn’t get into it. The characters felt lifeless, the love interest – Tay – seemed like one of the most boring guys ever and I wanted to punch Danny in the face.

Considering that this is a young adult book, the writing felt very childish to me – almost like a writing style that you would expect to see in the 9-12 section in Waterstones! However, the plot itself wouldn’t be classed as a young persons plotline.


“My advice to you, Elsie, is go with your heart, not your head, because your head doesn’t know what it wants. It only thinks about the moral high ground. And if your heart isn’t happy, when you try to share it you’ll make others unhappy too.”

– Sarah Alexander, The Art of Not Breathing


Every time Alexander would do something good with the storyline, she would ruin it by not doing it properly. For example, Elsie is part of a shattered family. Her twin brother died when they were smaller, she sees Eddie around her and actually speaks to him. She mentions that she hates her father… The list goes on. There were so many good opportunities for this book to deep and tackle some really important and hard issues.

*slight spoilers coming up*

During the latter of the book, Dillon is described to have anorexia/bulimia and Elsie is shown towards the beginning of the book to be overweight. For Dillon, I felt it was a shame that the author skirted round the issue of eating disorders. I know that this wasn’t what the book was about, but it would have been better for Alexander to build on this a little more.

Also… Elsie spied on her brother and his girlfriend having sex. What’s up with that? WHO EVEN DOES THAT? THAT LITERALLY GIVES ME THE CREEPS AND I FIND IT REPULSING.

All in all, this book was disappointing for me. I did go in to it without any expectations because I hadn’t heard that many reviews on it. But the reviews that I did read, they were quite positive. I must have been reading a different book

Warning: this book contains triggers for eating disorders and depression



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4 thoughts on “The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

  1. Was a lot of this book set underwater (with the characters underwater?) I feel like it might be good in theory, but then it’s like that Ryan Reynolds movie where he’s buried alive and it’s just too much time with no action. I could be way wrong, but there’s a guess!

    1. No not a lot of it is underwater… it’s just a story that’s missing that connection that the reader has with the characters. It’s a shame really because the basis of an incredible book is there …


  2. I hate when a book disappoints you. I especially hate when you can’t connect with characters and as you said – when they are lifeless – it’s just such an anti – climax.

    I enjoyed reading your honest views on this book and always enjoy reading book reviews and seeing what other people think! This isn’t the kind of book I think I would enjoy!

    Keep up the fab reviews!

    Charlene McElhinney

    1. Thing is, I haven’t met anyone who’s read this book so I can’t vent to anyone else about it ??? but yeah… characters were lifeless, which isn’t good at all.

      Thank you! There’d be no point in reviewing if I wasn’t going to be honest!


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