Breathing Underwater
Goodreads ratings
3.9 / 5

"Breathing Underwater" Summary

By Alex Flinn

young adult | 263 pages | Published in NaN

Like father, like son.Intelligent, popular, handsome, and wealthy, sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas is pretty much perfect--on the outside, at least. What no one knows--not even his best friend--is the terror that Nick faces every time he is alone with his father. Then he and Caitlin fall in love, and Nick thinks his problems are over. Caitlin is the one person who he can confide in. But when things start to spiral out of control, Nick must face the fact that he's gotten more from his father than green eyes and money.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A teenage boy learns to confront his abusive behavior and take responsibility for his actions.


"Breathing Underwater" by Alex Flinn is a compelling young adult novel that delves into the complex dynamics of teen dating violence and its aftermath. The story is narrated by Nick, a popular high school student who appears to have it all, but grapples with anger management issues that culminate in an abusive relationship with his girlfriend, Caitlin. The novel provides a raw and unflinching portrayal of the cycle of abuse, the impact on both the victim and the perpetrator, and the journey towards healing and redemption.

Brief Synopsis

The novel is set in Miami, Florida, and revolves around the tumultuous relationship between Nick Andreas and Caitlin McCourt. Nick, the protagonist, is a charming and athletic teenager who initially seems to have a perfect life. However, as the story unfolds, it becomes evident that Nick is struggling with anger and control issues, which lead him to become physically and emotionally abusive towards Caitlin. The narrative alternates between the present, where Nick is mandated to attend a court-ordered anger management class, and the past, where he recounts the events that led to his abusive behavior and its consequences.

Main Characters

The main characters in "Breathing Underwater" include:

Nick AndreasThe protagonist and narrator of the story. Initially charismatic and popular, he grapples with anger management issues that lead to abusive behavior.
Caitlin McCourtNick's girlfriend, who becomes the victim of his abusive behavior. She struggles to break free from the cycle of abuse and find her own voice.
DadNick's father, who plays a significant role in helping Nick confront his actions and take responsibility for his behavior.

Summary of Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-5: The Perfect Facade

Nick appears to have the perfect life—popular, athletic, and charming. He begins a relationship with Caitlin, but underlying anger issues start to surface.

Chapter 6-10: The Cycle of Abuse

Nick's anger escalates, leading to incidents of physical and emotional abuse towards Caitlin. Their relationship becomes increasingly volatile.

Chapter 11-15: Consequences Unravel

Caitlin seeks help and Nick is mandated to attend an anger management class as a result of his abusive behavior. His facade begins to crumble.

Chapter 16-20: Confronting Reality

Nick grapples with his actions and the impact of his behavior on Caitlin. He starts to confront the root of his anger and control issues.

Chapter 21-25: Seeking Redemption

Nick begins to acknowledge the depth of his actions and seeks to make amends. He embarks on a journey towards self-discovery and accountability.

Main Events

  • Nick and Caitlin's relationship starts with the promise of young love, but gradually descends into a cycle of abuse.
  • The pivotal moment when Caitlin seeks help and Nick is mandated to attend an anger management class.
  • Nick's internal struggle as he confronts the reality of his abusive behavior and its impact on Caitlin.
  • The journey towards redemption and self-discovery as Nick takes steps to address his anger issues and make amends.

Themes and Insights


  1. Teen Dating Violence: The novel delves into the intricacies of abusive teen relationships, shedding light on the cycle of abuse and its long-term impact.
  2. Anger and Control: Exploring the roots of anger and control issues, and the devastating consequences they can have on both the victim and the perpetrator.
  3. Redemption and Accountability: The narrative emphasizes the possibility of redemption and personal growth, as Nick confronts his actions and takes steps towards accountability.


  • The novel offers a poignant exploration of the complexities of teen dating violence, portraying the nuances of abusive relationships and the challenges of breaking free from the cycle of abuse.
  • It provides insight into the internal turmoil of the perpetrator, highlighting the internal battles and moments of self-realization that can lead to transformation and growth.

Reader's Takeaway

"Breathing Underwater" offers a powerful and thought-provoking narrative that sheds light on the often-overlooked issue of teen dating violence. Readers are presented with a raw and unflinching portrayal of the impact of abuse, the potential for redemption, and the importance of taking accountability for one's actions. The novel serves as a compelling reminder of the complexities of human relationships and the resilience of the human spirit.


In "Breathing Underwater," Alex Flinn delivers a poignant and compelling exploration of teen dating violence and its aftermath. Through the eyes of the protagonist, Nick, the novel navigates the tumultuous journey of acknowledging abusive behavior, seeking redemption, and ultimately taking steps towards personal growth and accountability. The raw and unflinching portrayal of the cycle of abuse, coupled with themes of resilience and transformation, makes this novel a captivating and essential read for young adults and a thought-provoking exploration of the human experience.

Breathing Underwater FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Breathing Underwater'?

    The genre of 'Breathing Underwater' is young adult fiction, specifically focusing on themes of domestic abuse and teenage relationships.

  2. Who is the author of 'Breathing Underwater'?

    Alex Flinn is the author of 'Breathing Underwater'.

  3. What is the main theme of 'Breathing Underwater'?

    The main theme of 'Breathing Underwater' is the cycle of abuse and its impact on individuals and relationships.

  4. Is 'Breathing Underwater' suitable for young readers?

    While 'Breathing Underwater' is a young adult novel, it contains mature themes and content related to domestic abuse, so it may not be suitable for all young readers.

  5. What is the significance of the title 'Breathing Underwater'?

    The title 'Breathing Underwater' symbolizes the struggle of the protagonist to navigate his turbulent life, much like trying to breathe while submerged.