Book Reviews

Review: Breathe and Count Back from Ten from Natalia Sylvester

I really enjoyed Running from Sylvester. So when I saw this latest release I knew I had to check it out. Breathe and Count Back from Ten is an emotional story about pain and grief, but it’s also about love and dreams. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Verónica has had many surgeries to manage her disability. The best form of rehabilitation is swimming, so she spends hours in the pool, but not just to strengthen her body.

Her Florida town is home to Mermaid Cove, a kitschy underwater attraction where professional mermaids perform in giant tanks . . . and Verónica wants to audition. But her conservative Peruvian parents would never go for it. And they definitely would never let her be with Alex, her cute new neighbor.

She decides it’s time to seize control of her life, but her plans come crashing down when she learns her parents have been hiding the truth from her—the truth about her own body.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: sexual assault, depression, ableism

Breathe and Count Back from Ten was a book that is raw and moving. As someone who shouldn’t be swimming, Verónica is a character who fascinated me. To me anyone who can swim and want to be like those mermaids is a wonder. I am the furthest from a swimmer as possible. Yet as a kid I was always fascinated with mermaids, so I instantly felt a kinship to Verónica. All in all, this book was emotional from beginning to end. Whether it be from her parents disapproval of her mermaid ambition or the degenerating state of her hip, Sylvester just continues the emotional wreckage.

Breathe and Count Back from Ten is about Verónica’s pressure on her family to stay afloat. To realize how close they are from capsizing. All the added weight in their boat as they wait for visas, juggle multiple jobs, and chase health care. At the same time, it’s also about the double standards for guys versus girls and the ways we blame girls for the desires of men. For the ways that certain words, concepts, things, are different for Verónica and girls.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Breathe and Count Back from Ten asks us what we will do for our dreams. If they will hollow us out and demand more than we can give. We don’t have to carry the weight of our burdens alone. And this book is about being vulnerable and fighting for what we want. Find Breathe and Count Back from Ten on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


Who is your favorite character who is a swimmer?

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