Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.
All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be published July 4th, 2017, via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.
Even though I generally don’t love them, I continue to read Miranda Kenneally books for the same reason I continue to read Rick Riordan books: they get me reading. Sure, they may be repetitive and not-great in the literary sense, but I like them because the plot generally holds my interest. And despite the fact that I regard Coming Up For Air as Kenneally’s worst novel yet, it is, ironically, refreshing because of the way it makes me want to read more after such a long break from reviewing.
What bothered me about Coming Up for Air was that it felt like Kenneally’s writing gave the impression that she hadn’t been writing very frequently either. The whole thing was tell instead of show. It was like Maggie was writing a report for me with snippets of dialogue rather than telling me a story.
I was more conflicted about the concept of the story. On one hand, it was intriguing to see Kenneally explore the concept of a girl navigating love while also juggling a competitive athletic career, but that’s also a handful of other better-written books like Lessons in Falling and Catching Jordan (which she also wrote).
Beyond that, the underlying reason why I was conflicted was that I felt like the author’s heart was truly in the right place in writing this. She wanted teenage girls to get into relationships at the right time for them, not measure themselves against others and not think that anything’s wrong with them if they are in a relationship. However, even if that was the message you were trying to get across by reading or buying this for someone, I still wouldn’t recommend it without supplemental talking about it because it doesn’t do a great job of driving the message home. It starts it out but doesn’t actually get to the morale of the story part of it, instead settling for letting the character unravel her mess by herself. In that sense, good intentions does not a great book make, and they don’t in this case.
Another thing that got to me was the poor development. It seemed like Kenneally was so desperate to get to every part of the story beyond what she was currently writing that she didn’t do any one thing well to the point of excellence at any point in the story. The supporting characters were there, but brushed over. The beginning felt like a mad dash to get to the action between the main characters. The world-building was… there? I guess you can call telling us where you are and a bit about how you got there world-building? The story had enough structure to be called a story, but that’s about it.
On the flip side, why I kept reading this one. As much as I just trashed the writing and the character development, I did know the characters and wanted to find out more about them, so kudos to Kenneally for that. In the second half, everything got better relationship-wise. The pacing settled, and I felt more of the lessons and exploration of relationships that I’d been hoping for in the first half. Granted, the love interest never really felt like a friend so that annoyed me, but I thought it was great in the exploring romantic feelings sense.
I also liked the way that Kenneally dealt with the fact that all of the characters have lives outside their romantic ones. This wasn’t something I was really expecting from her, and she came through with it in a way that was new and impressive. Levi and Maggie have a lot to lose outside their relationship, and that was handled in a realistic way.
Overall, not a great read, but if you need to get back into reading, I’d recommend Kenneally’s work, particularly her earlier stuff. I think major fans of hers would still enjoy Coming Up For Air, but I generally wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a decent read if you can get past the writing, but otherwise I’d much rather recommend Diana Gallagher’s Lessons in Falling. 1.5 stars.