Breathe and Count Back from Ten

Breathe and Count Back from Ten by Natalia Sylvester, Can be read in a few nights depending on your speed, Young Adult

“The unbearable regret of knowing it’s your fault that their sacarifice wasn’t worth it.”

Vero, p. 51

Phew. The past two months have been a lot, but I’m back with reviews! And I’m starting with a must read!

This book wasn’t even on my radar until it was chosen for the Chronically Iconic Book Club I’m a member of on IG, but I’m so glad I read it! It’s a beautiful story of a Peruvian-American teenager trying to find reclaim her body for herself.

Like the author, Vero (our main character) has hip dysplasia and swimming is the best way for her to exercise. Vero loves the water, so naturally she wants to be a mermaid in the show at the at the local waterpark. To be honest, as someone who can’t swim, I didn’t get it. What I did relate to was her challenging relationship with her parents, the pressure of being the child of immigrants, having a sister, and going for a dream you’re not “supposed” to have.

Photo of the book Breathe and Count Back from Ten on a beach town surrounded by pool flip flops.

While I couldn’t relate to having a physical disability, there was a lot about coming to terms with one’s body that I could relate to. This is a fantastic story about one person’s journey to have a say in her own care and make decisions about her own body—issues that many teenagers and, sadly, marginalized folks in general have, particularly when it comes to medical care.

There’s a lot packed into this book, but what really stands out is Sylvester’s writing. Vero spends a lot of time in the pool, and I was constantly impressed at Sylvester’s ability to write those scenes without them becoming repetitious or boring. The conversations with her parents, while frustrating at times, felt very real. And there was one scene in particular that was perfectly written, you really feel Vero’s emotions as they unfold in only a few pages.

I enjoyed this book so much, I’m now hunting for other books by Sylvester and I’m very curious to see what she writes next!

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