Summary: Breathe and Count Back from Ten
In Breathe and Count Back from Ten, Peruvian-American teen Verónica finds solace in swimming — and not just because it alleviates some of the discomfort from her hip dysplasia. She feels free and nimble under water, but she’s also practicing for a lifelong dream of performing at Mermaid Cove, an underwater sort-of-theme-park in her Florida town. The only problem is that her immigrant parents are overprotective and her father thinks performing as a mermaid is a waste of time when Verónica could be improving her grades ahead of college. But when the chance to audition falls in her lap, Verónica can’t resist. Add to that her new handsome neighbor, Sam and a potential hip surgery in her future and Verónica is set to have a FULL summer.
First off, I listened to this one on audio and enjoyed the narration. This is an interesting story with a couple of unique plotlines, which I enjoyed. Verónica’s love for the water is understandable and the author does a wonderful job of portraying the push and pull that can happen in the teen years, especially with immigrant parents.
Verónica’s parents are almost obsessively worried about her health (which makes sense after the ups and downs they’ve experienced) and her chastity/relationship with the opposite sex. Unfortunately, the excessive worrying prevents them from being as emotionally present for her as they should and ultimately hampers their relationship with their daughter.
A major theme in this book is disability and how non-disabled people view people with disabilities. Verónica has to deal with people who feel uncomfortable with her disability and even want to erase that in their portrayal of her. She also struggles with the pain and discomfort of having a disability and making the right treatment choices for herself. I loved that her love interest wasn’t a manic pixie dream boy but had his own struggles which Verónica got to support him with as well.
Verónica’s friends and her younger sister play an important role in the story, too and it was nice to see how the author developed those narratives — particularly for Verónica’s sister, who’s had to live in the shadow of her sister’s disability. Finally, the theme park, mermaid performances, and Peruvian folklore interwoven with this story really come to life, and I enjoyed seeing Verónica find her way to her dreams.
Overall: Breathe and Count Back from Ten
Breathe and Count Back from Ten is a poignant young adult novel about disability, Peruvian culture, body image, and identity. With a sweet YA romance and strong themes of family and bodily autonomy, this book manages to be strong, swoony, and contemplative all at once.
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