Verónica, a Peruvian‑American teen, must deal with both her painful hip dysplasia and her overprotective immigrant parents, all while chasing her dream to become a professional mermaid in this gorgeously written, authentic novel about secrets and finding your wings (or tail).


4 stars

Thank you Harper360YA for sending me this copy!

Breathe and Count Back to Ten tackles some serious topics and that’s what I love in my reads!

Verónica is has suffered from dysplasia since her birth and she went through countless surgeries. Learning about the pain she was in so often that she learned not to pay attention to it was eye opening!

Every time she walked, she felt self-conscious and tried to stand tall and smooth out her gait.

She has always felt different and it was hard to hide her scars, her braces when she had a surgery or a limping.

When she went to watch the local show of performing mermaids, it was a revelation!

“Like the mermaids, I, too, was a hybrid creature with two halves that didn’t match. Until I first encountered them, I’d never considered this could be beautiful.”

From that first day, she will be obsessed with the mermaids and she’ll dream of becoming one!

It also helped that the best therapy for her hip was swimming in a pool!

In the water, with no pressure on her joints, Verónica felt so light, at home!

But her dream does not fit into her parents expectations!

They traveled from Peru to give their two daughters a chance at a better life.

But that comes with a lot of pressure on Verónica and her sister Dani.

Vero can’t be seen alone with a boy. She can’t hope working as a mermaid as it’s not serious and that won’t help on her résumé.

I confess that I had a hard time with Verónica’s parents as I felt stifled by their overprotectiveness.

But I also had a very hard time with Vero as she lied to her parents to get to do what she wanted.

I hate liar. I hate dishonesty.

And even if I understood why she did it, I still didn’t like it.

The second main topic in the book was being a child of immigrants in the US.

Vero’s parents were afraid to do anything that could compromise their acceptance in the US and have their green card revoked. And that pressure was put on Verónica ‘s shoulders too.

“Leslie just doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know what it’s like to have parents who constantly remind you, either in words or by actions, that the endless hard work they endure in this country is all so you can have a better life than they did. That as a result, subconsciously you’re always measuring, comparing, asking, am I doing enough to justify what they gave up to come here?”

Being bicultural can also be hard!

“Sometimes I feel like being bicultural means having to be perfect for two groups of people instead of simply being accepted as part of both.”

I loved that story about a disabled character who is determined to live her dreams, no matter what and embark on a path to discover who she is and what really matters to her.

Thanks for reading.


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  1. Veronica sounds like a determined young lady. There’s so much going on for her, and so much to deal with, I think i would enjoy reading about her as she navigates the obstacles in her life.

  2. I haven’t been reading much YA lately but this sounds like one I would enjoy. I love the premise of a disabled character following their dreams in spite of the obstacles.

  3. Great review, Sophie! I knew about this book before but I kinda forgot about it so now I’m all like OH YES WANNA READ IT