Alex Flinn, Young Adult Author
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Breathing Underwater

Breathing Underwater by Alex FlinnNick is one of the chosen few at his high school: intelligent, popular, wealthy. People think his life is pretty easy. Except for one thing. Nick has never told anyone about his father's violent temper.

When Nick meets Caitlin, he thinks that she is the answer to all his problems. Caitlin is everything Nick has ever wanted - beautiful, talented, and in love with him. But then it all changes. And Nick must face the fact that he's gotten more from his father than green eyes and money.

In a harrowing journey of self-discovery, Nick learns the truth about himself - and that the phrase "like father, like son" can carry terrifying possibilities.

Look for Diva, the sequel to Breathing Underwater.

Breathing Underwater's Honors and Awards

  • ALA Best Books For Young Adults -- Top 10 List and Unanimous Pick
  • ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  • 2003 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults
  • 2003 International Reading Association Young Adults' Choices
  • Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award **Winner**, 2005
  • Missouri Gateway Award Second Place, 2004
  • Georgia Peach Award 2005 Honor Book
  • Broward County Teen Reader Award Winner, 2004 (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida area)
  • Publisher's Weekly "Flying Starts"
  • Barnes & Noble Best of 2001 for teens
  • BookSense 76 pick for July/August, 2001 (hardcover)
  • Children's BookSense 76 Pick for Winter, 2002 (paperback)
  • ABA Pick of the Lists
  • NYPL Books for the Teen Age
  • 2003 ALA Selected Audiobooks
  • AudioFile 2003 "Best of the Best" audiobooks
  • 2002 Children's Literature Choices List
  • Cleveland Public Library Celebrate With Books
  • Florida Teens Read Award 2006 Master List
  • Illinois Abraham Lincoln H.S. Book Award 2005 List
  • Indiana Eliot Rosewater Award Master List
  • Iowa High School Book Award Master List
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award Master List
  • Nevada High School Book Award Master List
  • Garden State (NJ) Teen Book Award Master List
  • Oklahoma Sequoyah High School Award Master List
  • Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award H.S. Recommended list
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award Master List
  • South Carolina Assoc. of Librarians Young Adult Master List
  • Volunteer State (Tn.) Book Award Master List
  • Tayshas (Texas) List
  • Washington Evergreen Award Master List
  • Missouri Public Library Assoc. YASIG "Best of the Best" list
  • Protagonista Jove Award winner (reader-selected award in Catalonia, Spain)


"Gripping." —Publisher's Weekly

"The messages ... of teenage love turned dangerous are powerful... this highly recommended book should he required reading for all teenagers." VOYA ( 5Q, 4P rating)

"Alex Flinn is not yet a staple of young adult literature . . . But if this intimate look at the contagious nature of physical abuse is any indication, she's on her way.
Washington Post

"Beautifully told, with believable and well-rounded characters." —Kliatt (starred review)

"An open and honest portrayal of an all-too-common problem."
School Library Journal

"frighteningly true . . ."

". . . teens may overlook its major flaws . . ."
Kirkus :)


Excerpt from Breathing Underwater

January 5, Justice Building, Miami, Florida

I’ve never been in a courthouse before. But then, I’ve never been in such deep shit before either. The metal detector screams when I walk through, and a security woman tries to check my pockets. I pull away.

“These what you want?” I dangle my keys an inch from her nose, getting in her face. She backs off, scowling. I throw them into her yellow, plastic basket and walk through again.

“You were supposed to give me those first,” she says.

“Sorry.” I’m not.

Behind me, my father flings in his keys. “You’re always sorry, Nicholas, always forgetting.” Then, he looks at the security woman, and his expression becomes a smile. “Miss, if you would please be so kind to tell me where is this courtroom?” He hands her the notice for my hearing.

She smiles too, taken in like everyone else by his Armani suit and Greek accent. “Second floor.” She looks at me. “Restraining order, huh?”

“Trouble with his girlfriend.” My father shakes his head. “He is sixteen.”

I stare forward, remembering a day on the beach, Caitlin laughing, a white hibiscus in her hair. Was it only a month ago? God, how did we get here?

My father nudges me onto the escalator, and it bears me up, high above the white-tiled floors and the metal detector, far from the security woman’s gaze. We reach the top, and he shoves me through a green door.

The courtroom smells like old books and sweat. Brown benches, like church pews, face the witness stand. On the front wall, gold letters read:

Miami-Dade County, Florida
We who labor here seek only the truth.

Fine, if you know what the truth is. Caitlin sits with her mother in the center pew. Dressed in white, her blond hair loose, she looks like something from our mythology book, a nymph, maybe, pursued by a beast. Guess I’m the beast. I pass her.

“Why are you doing this, Cat?” I whisper. “I thought we had something special.”

Caitlin examines her knees, but I can tell her eyes are brimming. “Yeah, Nick. I thought so too.”

“Then, why –?”

“You know why.” She moves to the other side of her mother.

I must stand there a second too long, because my father shoves me forward. I take a seat in the fourth row. He leaves a gap between us, opens his briefcase, and removes a thick folder. Work. I try to catch his eye. “Do you think they’ll –?”

His eyes narrow in annoyance. “Nicos, this is important.” He gestures at the folder.

I look away. From across the room, I feel Caitlin’s mom staring and Caitlin trying not to. So I concentrate, really concentrate, on making my face a mask. I’m good at that. People at school – my ex-friends, even Tom, who used to be my best friend – see me how I want them to: Nick Andreas, sixteen-year-old rich kid, honor student, coolest guy around. All fake. Only Caitlin knew the truth about the warfare with my father. She knew how humiliating it was warming the bench in football all season.

Telling her that stuff was a mistake. It’s easier to fake it. When you fake it for sixteen years, it becomes part of you, something you don’t think about. Maybe that’s why I can hold a smile when the judge – a female judge who’s sure to take Caitlin’s side – enters and Caitlin takes the witness stand. I grin like an idiot as the bailiff swears Caitlin in and a lawyer in a gray, polyester skirt begins asking her questions.

“State your name,” the polyester lawyer says.

“Caitlin Alyssa McCourt.”

Polyester points to the paper she’s holding. “Is this your statement, Miss McCourt?” Caitlin nods. “You’ll have to voice your answers for the record.”


“Is it your testimony you were involved in a relationship with the respondent, Nicholas Andreas?” Yes. “Is he here today?” Yes. “Point him out, please.”

Caitlin’s finger stretches toward me. I meet her eyes, try to make her remember all the good times. Bad move. Her tears, brimming before spill out, unchecked. A tissue is offered. Polyester keeps going.

“Was the relationship a sexual one?”

Caitlin’s hands twist in her lap. “Yes.”

“Was the sex consensual?”

Cat says nothing, glancing at her mother. The question takes me by surprise. Does she mean to lie about that too, make it rape, what we did together? It wasn’t. Polyester repeats the question, and Caitlin says, “I heard you. I was thinking.” She looks at her mother again and wipes another tear. Her chin juts forward. Finally, she says, “Yes. It was consensual. Nick and I . . . I loved him.”

In her seat two rows away, Mrs. McCourt shakes her head. Now, Caitlin stares forward.

“What happened December 12?” Polyester asks.

I look at the wall, my attention suddenly riveted by a palmetto bug, feelers writhing. I could kill it if I wanted.

“He hit me.”

The bug slides to the floor.


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