Breathe and Count Back From Ten by Natalia Sylvester
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publishing Info: Audiobook by HarperAudio, May 2022, narrated by Frankie Corzo
Star Rating: 5/5
Back Cover Summary:
Verónica has had many surgeries to manage her disability. The best form of rehabilitation is swimming, so she spends hours in the pool, but not just to strengthen her body. Her Florida town is home to Mermaid Cove, a kitschy underwater attraction where professional mermaids perform in giant tanks…and Verónica wants to audition. But her conservative Peruvian parents would never go for it. And they definitely would never let her be with Alex, her cute new neighbor. She decides it’s time to seize control of her life, but her plans come crashing down when she learns her parents have been hiding the truth from her—the truth about her own body.
I have found it quite difficult finding the right words for this review, and have found myself feeling quite emotional as I reflect on my feelings. Breathe and Count Back From Ten is a is so clearly written from the heart, and it spoke to my own. I wish I’d had this book as a teen, when I felt alone and afraid growing up chronically ill, when I didn’t know how to understand or express what I was feeling. Like the protagonist, the author has hip dysplasia and is Peruvian-American, and this story is written authentically from her own experiences.
Although I don’t share Verónica’s disability, I could relate to her thoughts and feelings around being disabled, stigma, and ableism. The author captures the experience of being disabled and articulates the complex and conflicting emotions of this experience so well. I found it so incredibly relatable as a disabled person, it truly touched me, and I am so thankful to Natalia Sylvester for sharing this story. It is raw and honest, and exactly the kind of disability representation we need more of.
This novel is beautifully written, lyrical and emotive, and the audiobook is narrated excellently by Frankie Corzo. The interweaving of the mythology of mermaids, Verónica’s own journey to become a mermaid, and her journey as a disabled person, is so beautifully done.
Breathe and Count Back From Ten is also a story about identity, belonging, family, dreams, friendship, and love. Although my review has focused on the disability representation so far, I also loved seeing Verónica’s relationships grow with her family. Plus, there is a very sweet romance which I adored.
This novel is absolutely stunning and I had no hesitations in giving it the full five stars. This book is a must-read and is absolutely one of my favourite books.