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Review: Coming Up For Air - Lou Abercrombie

Genre: YA Contemporary Published: Little Tiger Group, April 2022 My Rating: 3/5 stars

"Being in the sea is the one place where I feel I can come up for air and just breathe again.” She pauses to look at me. “The sea will be different tomorrow, and so will you.” When 15-year old Coco’s learns about their move back to the seaside town where her mum grew up, she is both excited and nervous. On the one hand, fitting in with the small-town teens that look at outsiders with a wary eye isn’t easy. On the other hand, their coastal location will give her the chance to fully explore her hobby for swimming and freediving on a daily basis. This passion for freediving turns out to be not just the key to making new friends among the locals, but also to uncover some secrets about her family that her mum has kept hidden for years. What I loved: The sea-side setting and the element of freediving were what initially drew me to this story, and both came through the way I wanted them to. The town of Piscary came to life of the pages, with its picturesque beaches and coastal rock caves. The local culture and silent feud between the natives (Fish), newcomers (Cuckoos) and seasonal tourists (Zombies) gives it a realistic and lived-in feeling that makes it easy to immerse yourself in the setting. That “lively” feeling is even more apparent in the scenes surrounding freediving, as this is where the novel truly shines. I wasn’t surprised to read in the author’s note that they’re a fervent swimmer themselves, as their knowledge and passion for the subject really shone through. Our protagonist Coco does the best when she’s in water, and the same can be said for this book in general. Speaking of Coco: I liked her as our main character. She reads like a realistic, bubbly 15-year old, and narrates the story with a distinct voice. What I didn’t love: That distinct narrative voice is also where she began to get grind my gears however. Coco is an aspiring filmmaker, and narrates large parts of her story like she’s directing a movie. Throughout a scene, you’ll get cues like "cut through slow panning camera-shot” or “looks at camera”. while it’s a fun gimmick at first, it quickly becomes overused and stale. Another issue I had with the writing style was how some more action-y scenes felt a little choppy. I had a few moments where I missed an important action point, and had to do a small double take, because the rhythm of the scene was off. Overall however, the main reason for my three-star rating was how middle of the road the story felt. Apart from the freediving-aspect, nothing particularly stood out to me. The story was exactly what I expected from a YA-contemporary, characters were fine but unmemorable and none of the representation was ground breaking. (view spoiler) Had I been 15, I would’ve probably had a great time reading this, especially during the summer on a beach. As it stands however, it’s not one of those stories I’ll remember for years and years to come. I’d recommend this story mostly to readers on the younger side of YA; say 12 to 16. Even though it didn’t pack the same emotional punch for me as either of these novels, Coming Up for Air will probably be worth checking out if you enjoyed Summer of Salt or The Last True Poets of the Sea.

Many thanks to Little Tiger Group Publishing for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

You can find this book here on Goodreads.


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