by Alex Flinn
Harpercollins Juvenile, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Mar 6th 2002
This novel for young adults focuses on the issue of
violence in relationships. The basic
idea is simple: 16-year old Nick has beaten his girlfriend Caitlin, and he has
been sentenced by a court to six months of counseling classes on family
violence and dealing with anger, and he also has to keep a journal of his
thoughts during this time. The judge
also grants a restraining order so that he is no longer allowed to contact
Caitlin. At first Nick has no
comprehension of why his behavior was wrong or what caused it, but through
reflection and his developing relationships with the other men in the weekly
class he attends, he gains insight and learns his lesson. He also manages to turn around his troubled
relationship with his violent father.
The novel mixes together Nicks narration of his
current life, after the court appearance, with his journal entries reflecting
on his relationship with Caitlin and the events that led up to his violence
towards her. It soon becomes clear how
he was mimicking his fathers controlling attitude, how jealous he was, and how
he became furious when Caitlin showed any indication of independent
thought. The novel also combines an
understanding of Nick as perpetrator of violence with a sympathetic portrayal
of him as a victim of his fathers pathology, and links the two together, while
remaining clear that Nick is responsible for his action.
The book is well written and the story should be
gripping. One gets a good sense of
Nicks friendships with other boys, as well as some conveying a sense of why
Caitlins low self-esteem might lead her to put up with Nicks obnoxious
attitudes towards her. Its hard to
know how teens would react to this story, but it is at least conceivable that
they might find it helpful if they have experienced similar issues in their own
lives. In the end, the book is
optimistic about the chances of ending violent behavior, while at the same time
making clear that if the perpetrators of violence refuse to come to grips with
their problem, it can escalate to terrible proportions.
is read well by Jon Cryer.
Sometimes the transitions between the different modes of story-telling
(present vs. reflection on the past) are rather confusing: where the printed
book uses different fonts, theres no such guide for the listener. But thats not a major problem, and some may
well find this an easier story to listen to than to read.
Audio Page for Breathing Underwater.
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.