Alex Flinn grew up in Syosset, New York, a small town on Long Island, New York and lived in Miami, Florida. When she was five years old, her mother suggested that she should be an author. “I guess I must have nodded or something because, from that point on, every poem I ever wrote in school was submitted to Highlights or Cricket magazine. I was collecting rejection slips at age seven!”High school was spent in Miami ‘s various “gifted and talented” performing arts programs. She studied opera in college and was a really loud, high pitched soprano.
She later went on to study law at law school.It was the latter experience which probably helped her with her first novel. Breathing Underwater deals with the serious and all-too-common problem of dating violence. Alex based the book on her experiences interning with the State Attorney’s Office and volunteering with battered women. Alex started writing an early draft of Breathing Underwater in college.
But when she had her first daughter, she started writing it in earnest. “I was self-taught. I went to the library and took out books on writing. Then, I read a lot of young-adult novels by writers I admired, particularly Richard Peck. Reading his books is like listening to Mozart — you learn the right way to write a novel. Then, you fill in your own style.”Alex currently lives in Palmetto Bay, a Miami suburb, with her husband, Gene, and her daughters, Katie and Meredith.
Nick Andreas, a sixteen year old high school student, lives with his father in the small town of Key Biscayne, somewhere off the Atlantic coast near Miami, Florida. Nick is described as being an Abercrombie and Fitch kid who is well privileged and has everything handed to them. Unfortunately, Nick has been handed a situation that he does not want. Nick has ended up in court because of his violent acts against his girlfriend, Caitlin McCourt.
The Judge, Deborah Lehman, orders a restraining order against him if he so much as looks at Caitlin. Judge Lehman also orders six months in counseling classes on family violence and dealing with anger. Because Nick has such a hard time understanding how he got himself into this mess, Judge Lehman also orders Nick to keep a journal that consists of five hundred words per week.At first, Nick is pissed off at the fact that the judge makes him do all these things, but in the end, they will make him become a better person. Nick shows a careless attitude when he attends his family violence class, lead by a guy named Mario. Along with the seven other people in the class, he denies the fact of what he did to Caitlin by saying he just gave her a simple slap on the face when in real life, he had punched and kicked her because he did not want her to sing in front of people and make herself look like an idiot. In turn, Nick made himself look like an idiot.
Nick ends up writing in his journals that he has to write.He uses his journals and talks about the times he used to have with Caitlin. The journals he writes gets him away from reality and into his fantasies where he would much rather be. Over time, he reflects on what he wrote and where he went wrong with his relationship.Nick learns some valuable lessons from the family violence class by not thinking always about the negative things that make him angry. Instead, Mario tells him to think that if she was running late picking him up, to say that he got worried that she got in an accident. Nick thinks that he will be able to get Caitlin back when he can’t because of what he did to her.
Nick learns that he has to move on and make life better for him in the future.Nick AndreasThe narrator and main character of the story has been beaten by his own father, which has caused him to do the same on his girlfriend. He is described as being very attractive and someone who gets anything he wants.
After the event with Caitlin, he is now hated by everyone in the school, even his best friend Tom.Caitlin McCourtNick’s girlfriend and victim of the abuse that Nick gives her. Caitlin loves Nick, but doesn’t like the fact that Nick sometimes treats her like crap by being told what to do and what not to do by Nick.Nick’s FatherNick’s dad is the cause of the abusive relationship between Nick and Caitlin. He often yells at Nick over little things that really make his father angry at him.Tom CarterOne of Nick’s best friends he has been friends with for over 10 years.
Tom ends up hating Nick after he beat up Caitlin. Nick often spends most of his time at Tom’s house to get away from the problems at home.Mario OrtegaThe teacher and leader of the family violence class that Nick is ordered to attend. Mario tells the group reasons why they would end up beating their girlfriends in the first place.
He helps Nick realize how serious the issue of abuse really is.ElsaElsa is one of Caitlin’s friends that she has known for a very long time. But Nick tells Caitlin he doesn’t want her to see her anymore because Elsa is always saying negative things about Caitlin’s relationship with Nick.Saint O’Conner (Saint)He is the Star quarterback, Tom’s new best friend and Caitlin’s new boyfriend. Saint is a classmate of Nicks who makes Nick jealous because he thinks that Caitlin has been seeing him as well. He has become one of Nick’s enemies.
Leo SotolongoLeo is one of the members of the violence group who denies the fact that he is abusive with his girlfriend, Neysa. Leo is a walking example of Nick that helps Nick realize that he had been just like Leo. Leo later kills both Neysa and himself, which gets the point through to all the members of the group about what would happen if the guys didn’t change their minds on abuse.Kelly Steele (Kelly)Kelly is a male accountant who is in Mario’s class. Kelly gets in a fight with Leo and then Kelly leaves the group.
Tyrone Johnston (Tiny)Tiny is another person who is in Mario’s violence class. Although he is referred to as “Tiny”, he is rather big in size.Tiny claims that he was the one who was abused by his girlfriend, Donyelle, and that they arrested the wrong guy.Ray DeLeonRay is also in the violence group.
He is one of the older guys in the class who is through school. He is more serious in the class that some of the others. Nick refers him in the group as the one who’s always sucking up to Mario and being “a kiss-ass from day one”.