Compare This! Breath Like Water vs. Coming Up For Air

OMG I BROUGHT IT BACK! I have been reading a crazy stupid amount of books lately and, since I’m getting through them so quickly right now, I started noticing similarities between them.

So this is my special “There should have been Olympics this month” edition of Compare This! involving two books about wannabe-Olympic swimmers.

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

VS.

Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

The Pros:

  • The story has a person of color (in this case, Hispanic) lead! The diversity, especially in a sport that seems to be predominantly white, is refreshing and much needed.
  • It shows the darker side of competing — the perfectionism, the lack of social time, the bullying that is supposed to be “motivating”. I liked that it wasn’t afraid to dive deep. (Ha, omg, this probably won’t be the last water pun, sorry.)
  • Every character that we see for more than 2 minutes has a realistic personality and realistic flaws. I mean, I’m not sure there was a two-dimensional character in the whole novel. Everyone had a side to them that you liked and a side you hated.
  • The romance felt genuine and sweet with its own struggles mixed in. Again, Jarzab is keeping it real here.

The Cons:

  • This book can get dark. Like, really dark. And I think, for certain people, it could trigger something. I was not expecting it to go the places that it did.
  • There’s a good portion of the plot that’s all “Harry [the male love interest] is hiding something from me” and maybe it’s just my age or something, but I was kind of over that. It just seemed drawn out and eye-roll inducing.
Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally

The Pros:

  • This book is funny. It’s awkward and hilarious because of it. Because really, I think most of us can remember a point in our lives where we had no idea what a physical relationship actually entailed.
  • Kenneally knows how to write cute characters that you like from the beginning and just want to continue to follow even after the book ends. It’s not hard to like the protagonists, Maggie and Levi.
  • The dedication and the drive to become Olympians is still here, but it’s a much healthier environment for our characters that Breath Like Water. So it was more fun to read about because everyone seemed to genuinely care about them and look out for their well being.
  • While the tone is much lighter, it still doesn’t shy away from the realities of relationships, especially how each relationship proceeds at its own pace and you shouldn’t judge what works for another couple just because it doesn’t work for you.

The Cons:

  • This is by far one of the raciest books I think Kenneally’s written, but maybe that’s just because I’ve forgotten the plots of some of the others? Anyway, this is probably not the best book to hand your 11-year-old cousin. It’s not…graphic…but it’s certainly more than a little explicit at times.
  • I’m not really a huge fan of the basic premise, which is Maggie wants to “learn to hook up” because that’s all anyone does in college. (Hint: it’s not. Like I said above, all relationship proceed at their own paces and hook ups may not be something you’re comfortable with and that’s fine.) So that just made me feel a little weird.

And the Winner Is… Breath Like Water!

Why? For starters, the writing is just pure genius. Right from the beginning, the writing pulled me in and didn’t let me go. I loved how I was just taken in by this competitive world I only knew of from the very polished view broadcast on the Olympics. The characters are also worth it because they were the most real people I have read about in a long time. Every. Single. Person. Is. Flawed. You can see characters in the story who are bad people trying to make good decisions but can’t get past their own egos. It’s just fascinating. And that goes back to fantastic writing.

Seriously. This was one of the best written books I’ve read all year.

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