Breathing Underwater

Breathing Underwater

4.6 174
by Alex Flinn, Alexandra Flinn

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Sent to counseling for hitting his girlfriend, Caitlin, and ordered to keep a journal, sixteen-year-old Nick recounts his relationship with Caitlin, examines his controlling behavior and anger, and describes living with his abusive father.  See more details below


Sent to counseling for hitting his girlfriend, Caitlin, and ordered to keep a journal, sixteen-year-old Nick recounts his relationship with Caitlin, examines his controlling behavior and anger, and describes living with his abusive father.

Editorial Reviews

Jon Cryer brilliantly captures the surly, sullen tone of 16-year-old Nick Andreas's first-person narration, which begins the day he arrives at court, charged with physical violence against his girlfriend. Ordered to attend Mario Ortega's Family Violence class and to keep a journal, Nick resists the former, but finds increasing solace -- and a vehicle for telling his backstory -- in his journal. Anger burns beneath the surface of Nick's memories, his daily life, his relationship with his brutal father, and his longing for love. Cryer's pacing is spot-on as he rides the roller coaster of Nick's fury, passion, lust, and yearning. He is equally successful with the voices of the mixed ethnic/racial group in Mario's class and with Mr. Andreas's Greek accent. Flinn's popular YA novel gains added depth and power through this superb audio production.
Publishers Weekly
In what PW called "a gripping tale," a 16-year-old, who is considered perfect by his classmates, suffers a turbulent home life with an abusive father, and he himself follows the pattern of violence. Ages 13-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ever feel like you're breathing underwater, and you have to stop because you're gulping in too much fluid?" For 16-year-old Nick Andreas, these words from his violence counselor ring true. While his classmates think of him as rich, popular and perfect, they don't know the truth about his turbulent home life with an abusive father. As Flinn's first novel opens, Nick finds himself in court, facing a restraining order by his girlfriend, Caitlin. He is sentenced to six months of counseling and to write 500 words per week in a journal, explaining what happened from the day he met Caitlin to the present. Set in Miami and told in a split narrative, the novel juxtaposes Nick's journal entries about his past relationship with Caitlin alongside the current challenges of going back to school with his friends turned against him, his counseling sessions and life with his father. Gradually, he begins to recognize his own responsibility in how events played out ("Somehow, when I see it on paper, it becomes more real than when it's just in my head"). The correlation between Nick's controlling behavior and his father's abuse is subtle but effective. Caitlin's insecurity, borne of self-image problems due to a previous weight problem and her beautiful mother's badgering, is also credibly rendered. The ending scene with Nick's best friend rings a bit hollow, but as Nick's past comes to light, both the circumstances and his owning up to his actions carry heavy emotional weight in this gripping tale. Ages 13-up.
Sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas—handsome, popular, athletic—is in big trouble and deep denial. Barely sidestepping jail time, Nick is sentenced by a tough, wise judge to anger-management classes and to keeping a journal to force him to face the consequences of his violent behavior toward his lovely girlfriend, Caitlin. Nick's life is a recipe for disaster. Abandoned by his mother at five, raised by his shockingly cruel and physically punishing wealthy father, Nick thinks his luck is changing when the formerly obese, now slim Caitlin responds to his love. Their sweet romance gradually unravels, however, as Nick, threatened by Caitlin's beauty and interest in singing and in her friends, employs increasingly savage tactics to control and isolate her, all in the name of his great love for her. Flinn spares nothing in this wrenchingly realistic account of the devastating cause-and-effect, downward spiral of knee-jerk patterns learned at the fist of a brutal father, behaviors that surface despite Nick's resolve to the contrary. Caitlin's own response, born of poor body image, is to try harder to "do better" so Nick will love her. The cycle plays out to its awful conclusion when he beats her bloody. Enter the anger-management therapy sessions, run by a gifted counselor who has "been there" himself, and the growing self-knowledge that ever so slowly is revealed in Nick's journal. Thus the seeds of healing are formed. The messages in this unsparing novel of teenage love turned dangerous are powerful, on target, and almost too painful to read—exactly why this highly recommended book should be required reading for all teenagers. It is a road map to warning signs, consequences, and thevery real hope of redemption if the cycle of abuse is to be caught and treated in time. PLB . VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 272p, . Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Beth E. Andersen SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
Children's Literature
This finely crafted first novel is a realistic and poignant portrayal of a young man seemingly destined to perpetuate the cycle of domestic violence. To the outside world, Nick Andreas is a sixteen-year-old rich kid. An athlete as well as honor student, Nick is one of the coolest guys in school. And he has a one-in-million girlfriend in Caitlin. One would never think that he is a victim of his father's violent attacks. When Nick's controlling behavior causes him to slap Caitlin, Nick finds himself ostracized by his fellow students, and he has a restraining order against him. As part of his sentence, Nick is required to attend counseling and to keep a personal journal. Between the counseling sessions, the reflective journal entries and the narrative, Ms. Finn comes as close to getting inside her character's head as novelists of greater experience can hope to achieve. She pulls no punches here; the ugliness and brutality of domestic violence, as well as the sheer mountainous task of breaking the cycle, are depicted with unusual candor. In the end, Nick's self-examination provides some reason for hope, but refreshingly, there is no sugarcoated happy ending. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95 and $15.89. Ages 13 up. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
The eye-catching cover of this outstanding first novel offers a helpful clue to its contents: a grotesque, rage-filled face is scrawled over the features of a handsome young man, with words scribbled on the side; the word "anger" is prominent. We first meet Nick, 16-year-old "rich kid, honor student, coolest guy around," at a Florida courthouse where he is accused of hitting his girlfriend. The judge decides on a restraining order, counseling, and classes on dealing with violence and anger. She also requires Nick to write a journal, explaining what happened between him and Caitlin. The novel consists of this journal detailing the history of their relationship, interspersed with Nick's narration of life in the present. We learn how he met his "dream girl" and gradually grew more controlling, jealous, and abusive; how his father always puts him down and uses him as a punching bag, and how his mother ran away when he was little; and how he envies his friend Tom and his happy family. We also learn about what happens in the classes on violence and anger management, and see Nick's realistically difficult journey to understanding and controlling his behavior. He finally comes to accept that he can't have Caitlin back, and that he must come to grips with his loneliness, his insecurity, and the hard-won recognition that being a man means taking responsibility for his actions. Flinn, a lawyer, based this powerful and convincing story on her experience trying domestic violence cases at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, according to the jacket flap. It's beautifully told, with believable and well-rounded characters, and it manages to make us feel for Nick without sympathizing with hisreprehensible actions. An important book for both young men and young women to read. Some profanities. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, HarperCollins, 264p. 00-044933., $15.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Nick, an upper-income, popular, straight-A high school student, not only copes with his father's verbal and physical abuse, but his own abusive behavior toward his girlfriend, Caitlin, in this novel by Alex Flinn (HarperCollins, 2001). After a court appearance, he must regularly attend group therapy sessions with members across the social strata, and keep a daily journal in order to stay out of jail. Through these experiences, his barriers and prejudices break down and he is able to begin his road to recovery on many levels. Narrator Jon Cryer brings Nick to life with his restrained anger, pain, and confusion. Listeners begin to understand the insidious logic Nick uses to justify the "slap" Caitlin "deserves," and how easily it can spiral out of control. Cryer's subtle vocal inflections with sarcasm and sense of timing, especially pauses, are superb; he allows us to hear the cruelty in a simple statement by virtue of its tone. Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and one of the Hughes Brat Pack (Pretty in Pink), his acting skills span a wide range of roles. The voices of other characters, while integral to the story, are not memorable. This may have to do more with the story itself than the narrator's abilities to perform this task. The story never lets up; anger permeates it from beginning to end. Suitable for high school students, this could be a powerful tool when integrated with the curriculum.-Tina Hudak, St. Bernard's School, Riverdale, MD Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Nick Andreas—16, rich, smart, popular—seems to have a perfect life, and when beautiful, talented Caitlin becomes his girlfriend, it looks to outsiders as though it can't get any better. After beating up Caitlin, however, Nick receives a restraining order to stay away from her and is sentenced to complete a family violence program, as well as to keep a journal that describes his relationship with her. First-novelist Flinn combines Nick's present-day life—attempts to win back his former girlfriend, anger-management meetings, and struggles to maintain self-control—with diary entries that reveal his controlling and abusive relationship with Caitlin, his own verbal and physical abuse by his father, and low self-esteem. With such important subject matter, particularly for young males, and research by the author, there's potential here; however, it fails to meet readers' expectations. Characters, stereotypical at times, are not fully developed, and the language is often contrived. Nick's anger appears out of nowhere when he begins to date Caitlin and subsides too quickly by the end. Although it shouldn't be used for bibliotherapy, it offers a lot to think about, and many teens will probably overlook its major flaws because of the format and real-world content. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.93(d)
510L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

January 5

Justice Building, Miami, Florida

I've never been in a courthouse before. But then, I've never been in such deep shit before, either. The metal detector screams when I walk through, and a security woman tries to check my pockets. I pull away.

"These what you want?" I dangle my keys an inch from her nose, getting in her face. She backs off, scowling. I throw them into her yellow plastic basket and walk through again."You were supposed to give me those first," she says.

"Sorry." I'm not.

Behind me, my father flings in his keys. "You're always sorry, Nicholas, always forgetting." Then, he looks at the security woman, and his expression becomes a smile. "Miss, if you would please be so kind to tell me where is this courtroom?" He hands her the notice for my hearing.

She smiles too, taken in like everyone else by his Armani suit and Greek accent. "Second floor." She looks at me. "Restraining order, huh?"

"Trouble with his girlfriend." My father shakes his head. "He is sixteen."

I stare forward, remembering a day on the beach, Caitlin laughing, a white hibiscus in her hair. Was it only a month ago? God, how did we get here?

My father nudges me onto the escalator, and it bears me up, high above the white-tiled floors and the metal detector, far from the security woman's gaze. We reach the top, and he shoves me through a green door.

The courtroom smells like old books and sweat. Brown benches, like church pews, face the witness stand. On the front wall, gold letters read:

Miami-Dade County, Florida

We Who Labor Here Seek Only theTruth

Fine, if you know what the truth is. Caitlin sits with her mother in the center pew. Dressed in white, her blond hair loose, she looks like something from our mythology book, a nymph, maybe, pursued by a beast. Guess I'm the beast. I pass her.

"Why are you doing this, Cat?" I whisper. "I thought we had something special."Caitlin examines her knees, but I can tell her eyes are brimming. "Yeah, Nick. I thought so too."

"Then, why--?"

"You know why." She moves to the other side of her mother.

I must stand there a second too long, because my father shoves me forward. I take a seat in the fourth row. He leaves a gap between us, opens his briefcase, and removes a thick folder. Work. I try to catch his eye. "Do you think they'll--?"

His eyes narrow in annoyance. "Nicos, this is important." He gestures at the folder.I look away. From across the room, I feel Caitlin's mom staring and Caitlin trying not to. So I concentrate, really concentrate, on making my face a mask. I'm good at that. People at school--my ex-friends, even Tom, who used to be my best friend--see me how I want them to: Nick Andreas, sixteen-year-old rich kid, honor student, coolest guy around. All fake. Only Caitlin knew the truth about the warfare with my father. She knew how humiliating it was warming the bench in football all season.

Telling her that stuff was a mistake. It's easier to fake it. When you fake it for sixteen years, it becomes part of you, something you don't think about. Maybe that's why I can hold a smile when the judge--a female judge who's sure to take Caitlin's side--enters and Caitlin takes the witness stand. I grin like an idiot as the bailiff swears Caitlin in and a lawyer in a gray polyester skirt begins asking her questions.

"State your name," the polyester lawyer says.

"Caitlin Alyssa McCourt."

Polyester points to the paper she's holding. "Is this your statement, Miss McCourt?"

Caitlin nods. "You'll have to voice your answers for the record."


"Is it your testimony you were involved in a relationship with the respondent, Nicholas Andreas?" Yes. "Is he here today?" Yes. "Point him out, please."

Caitlin's finger stretches toward me. I meet her eyes, try to make her remember all the good times. Bad move. Her tears, brimming before, spill out, unchecked. A tissue is offered. Polyester keeps going.

"Was the relationship a sexual one?"

Caitlin's hands twist in her lap. "Yes."

"Was the sex consensual?"

Cat says nothing, glancing at her mother. The question takes me by surprise. Does she mean to lie about that too, make it rape, what we did together? It wasn't. Polyester repeats the question, and Caitlin says, "I heard you. I was thinking." She looks at her mother again and wipes another tear. Her chin juts forward. Finally, she says, "Yes. It was consensual. Nick and I . . . I loved him."

In her seat two rows away, Mrs. McCourt shakes her head. Now, Caitlin stares forward.

"What happened December 12?" Polyester asks.

I look at the wall, my attention suddenly riveted by a palmetto bug, feelers writhing. I could kill it if I wanted.

"He hit me."

The bug slides to the floor.

Breathing Underwater. Copyright © by Alex Flinn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Breathing Underwater 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 174 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
I'm going to say this once, and then we'll all forget it--I spent 90% of this book despising the main character, Nick Andreas. Now that it's out of the way, I can go on to say that I loved BREATHING UNDERWATER and even came, in some small way, to understand--if not actually like--Nick's character.

Nick is the kind of boy that you would look at and immediately say "man, that kid has it all." But you would be wrong. Because although he has a dad who makes a ton of money, and lives in a big, fancy house, and drives a shiny red sports car, Nick doesn't have a fairytale life. His father is abusive, both mentally and physically, and he can't even remember his mother. He has a best friend, Tom, who has the kind of family he wishes he had himself, and a pretty important A-list group of schoolkids that he hangs out with. His life isn't great, but he manages--until he meets Caitlin, falls in love, and things all fall apart.

BREATHING UNDERWATER starts out with Nick appearing in court in answer to a restraining order that his once girlfriend, Caitlin McCourt, has taken out against him. The judge doesn't fall for Nick's innocent "who me?" act, and sentences him to stay away from Caitlin, both on school grounds and off; to enroll in a six month counseling class dealing with family violence and anger management; and to keep a journal, at least five hundred words per week, detailing what happened to end up where he is, and why.

A lot of the book is told through Nick's journal, and it's through the words he writes that we come to know how abuse is a cycle--and how, many times, the abuser doesn't even realize that he's become like the person he most hates. This is Nick's story, the dawning realization that everything he hates about his father is manifested in his treatment of Caitlin. How did a boy who supposedly has it all end up beating his girlfriend senseless in a parking lot? How can love be so mixed up with the need to control that it leaves you breathless and shaking, angry at the person you love the most?

Alex Flinn has written a very important story, that of family violence and the toll it takes on everyone involved. This is the kind of cycle that needs to be broken, before more young people like Nick repeat the only thing they know. A truly informative book, BREATHING UNDERWATER is not to be missed.
George_Counts More than 1 year ago
I rarely become emotionally attached to a novel while I'm reading it. I might feel a little sad if something tragic happens to one of the characters but more often then not I don't actually care either way. That totally changed when I read Breathing Underwater, the story of rich kid that verbally and physically abuses his girlfriend just so she won't leave him. I know it hurt my brain at first too but you'll understand when you read the book. The main character of the book is Nick Andreas, the rich and popular kid. He's cool, he's fly, and he can handle any situation with ease. But when his girlfriend, Caitlin, files a restraining order against him, not only does he have to avoid the girl he truly loves with all of his heart he also has to take a class on healthy relationships and write down everything that led to the incident in a journal and turn it in to the Judge. I love the characters, they don't seem like one dimensional high school students. They seem genuine. When something bad happens to someone you feel their pain, when someone is treating everybody like crap you want to beat them up. I also like how this author isn't afraid to go over the edge with content. There is teen drinking, references to sex, fake I.D's, underage partying, heavy profanity, and physical assault. All of these qualities add that extra touch of realism. Probably my favorite part about the novel is how the author plays with your emotions, not only do you feel bad about Caitlin when she is being treated horribly, you feel bad about Nick because you understand all of the inner demons he is facing. This book is incredible and a must read for anybody who loves Teen Fiction. George M. Counts gives this book a 9 outta 10.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alex Flinn is an amazing author. She goes from fairy tales to a serious book like Breathing Underwater. This book is so touching and deep. I know that it will reach you in some way. Unlike the fairy tales, some people can relate and I think that is what makes the book.
-_-CR More than 1 year ago
Breathing Underwater was one of the top 3 best books I've read. It has a good story line and was very exciting at times. I would definetly recommend it to kids that in the 8th grade or higher. It sometimes got a little boring but overall it was a book that I would read more than once. It was a book that I always wanted to see what would happen next.
DaddyNeverHuggedMe More than 1 year ago
I think Breathing Underwater is an amazing book and if you are a teen it is a great read and will instantly draw you in. If not in high school I would still recommend reading this book cause it gives a great insight to teen thinking. It goes between the main character writing in his journal about the past with his girlfriend and the present about his problems with his old friends and going back to high school. It's a very satisfying experience as you watch grow into himself realize that he was wrong. Other than just writing in his journal he also must attended anger management sessions. This is where you get to see into the heart of the main characters problems and see how he deals with people that he considers lower than himself.
captainclitori More than 1 year ago
Breathing Underwater You want to be angry while reading, you wanna have thoughts you never thought you would. Do you want to read a book that just makes you so emotional that you wanna cry but then also wanna rage against the machine. If you are any of those things above then read the book Breathing Underwater this book takes a deep look at the troubling world of a teenager who got into and tidbit of trouble with the law and all of his peers. You are lead through his transition of realizing how actually was to what he thought he was. So if you want to feel emotions while enjoying a good book this is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe that every high school studdent in the country should have to read this book. It opens their eyes and shows them that its not the qorst thing in the world when your cell phone gets taken away. They need to realize some peoples lives are actually like this
m_lovelylife More than 1 year ago
Breathing Underwater, an emotional ride. Alex Finn has mastered the art of writing this novel and filling it with emotion that the main character Nick carries on his journey to self realization. The first person point of view captures the reader and teaches lessons of life.
Larry99 More than 1 year ago
How does a rich kid deal with issues of abandonment, isolation, and abuse? Just like a poor kid: He becomes insecure and abusive in his relationships. How does a suddenly popular high school girl deal with being abused? Not well. Breathing Underwater is written for teens as a dramatic story about a high school student and his abusive relationship with his girlfriend. However, the realism of the writing and the realism of the protagonist's story tell the kids about what it is like to be in an abusive relationship and what can result from it. In the classroom, it is an excellent starting point for a more detailed study of abusive relationships. The varieties of relationships, where they start, and the painful similarities of abusive relationships are all discussed in the story and provide excellent subjects for the further discussion of this all too common issue.
m-stagen More than 1 year ago
My class was assigned Breathing Underwater to read, and I actually found it to be an interesting read. It's about a young teenager named Nick who loses friends and their trust after they find him beating his girlfriend. He is court ordered to write a journal telling everything that happened between him and his now ex-girlfriend, Cat from the beginning to the end, to help him reflect on what he has done. Up until the beating he gave Cat, he didn't really have any idea how abusive he was, the majority of it being verbal abuse. The story has a real life feel to it, leaving off the corny movie ending and using one that would most certainly happen to someone in his shoes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Breathing underwater was in my opinion a very good book. I really enjoyed the style of writing he used write. Alex Flinn added in some journal entries into the book. I think that doing this added a lot of character into the book. Alex Flinn also wrote Fade To Black, Nothing To Lose, Breaking Point, Beastly and Diva. You were able to see what the main character was feeling and why he did what he did. In overall I felt that this was a really awesome book. I would prefer Breathing Underwater to anyone who likes conflict and drama. The only thing I didn't really like about Breathing Underwater is that you don't know much other than the information about the characters given. Maybe if there were more to the setting it would be a bit more eventful. Other than that this book is on my top ten list.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Is this relatable to John Green?.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book many times since i was 14 and it is still one of my favorite books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite book of all time. Simple and easy to read, but you will find yourself laughing, crying, and learning right along with Nick. Very touching. You never see the side of the story that this book presents.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I lovvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeddddddddd this book cant wait to read Diva!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the best book I have read in a while! The second book is called Diva. I read that one too and it is amazing!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Breathing Underwater is a good book I only read the sample but i'm gonna get the entire book on May 17, 2013. Which is this Friday!! Hopefully, it is a good book the sample was good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Virginia-O More than 1 year ago
In Breathing Underwater there are many conflicts, characters, settings, and detail. The main character is Nicholas Andreas and Caittlin Alyssa McCourt. They are both young teenagers who fell in love that turns to the worse situation that happens to both of them. The major conflict that happens is when Nicholas hit Caittlin because of his of his temper. Because of that choice they ended up in court and Caittlin get a restring order against Nicholas. The judge orders Nicholas to do journal of five-hundred words per week explaining what happen. Basically all the setting in the book is at their school and an order court to go a counseling group. I like the part where Nicholas realize that his action were wrong. That his action where never okay. I did not like the part where Nicholas starts taking too much control of the relationship. For example, he tells her what to wear, with whom she suppose to hang out with, and what she allows to basically feel. He takes control of her body and her own thoughts. What I think is most important about this story is that the characters go to realize their own mistakes and that Nicholas learn how to control all his emotions that where bottled up and to never use violence as excuse. I think what the author’s message to the readers is that to never ever use violence as an excuse because it can make the people you love the most separate from you. Also it can make the love one be gone from your life forever. I would recommend this book to any one who loves dramatic situation because this is a very great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Really interesting easy read. This is a book for guys and girls!
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