Essentially The Art of Not Breathing is about guilt, grief and loss. The focus is on Elsie and the way she deals with the death of her brother.
Everything revolves around water, because that is how Ethan disappeared. In the sea with plenty of people around, and yet he is still gone without a trace.
Elsie can’t really remember what happened that day. She is drawn to the water and the flashbacks she gets when she is at the last place Ethan was seen.
There is some element to being submerged, to diving under water and being unable to breathe, which initiates the flashbacks and memories. This realisation drives Elsie to push herself to the point of dangerous excursions and even beyond that.
The story is strangely compelling without being overly dramatic or too young adulty. It is interesting to note that the author hasn’t put much of an emphasis on the missing child. Instead it’s more about the family left behind and how grief can destroy relationships. Regardless of whether it is via neglect, anger, guilt or just overwhelming sadness.
I liked it, it was subtle and heartfelt without a lot of squee.