[Book Tour] Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen

Breathing Underwater
Sarah Allen
(Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR))
Publication date: March 31st 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Middle-Grade

Breathing Underwater is a sparkly, moving middle grade novel from Sarah Allen, and a big-hearted exploration of sisterhood, dreams, and what it means to be there for someone you love.

Olivia is on the road trip of her dreams, with her trusty camera and her big sister Ruth by her side. Three years ago, before their family moved from California to Tennessee, Olivia and Ruth buried a time capsule on their favorite beach. Now, they’re taking an RV back across the country to uncover the memories they left behind. But Ruth’s depression has been getting worse, so Olivia has created a plan to help her remember how life used to be: a makeshift scavenger hunt across the country, like pirates hunting for treasure, taking pictures and making memories along the way.

All she wants is to take the picture that makes her sister smile. But what if things can never go back to how they used to be? What if they never find the treasure they’re seeking? Through all the questions, loving her sister, not changing her, is all Olivia can do—and maybe it’s enough.

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Author Bio:

Sarah Allen has been published in The Evansville Review, Allegory, and on WritersDigest. She has an MFA from Brigham Young University. Like Libby in her novel What Stars are Made Of, Allen was born with Turner Syndrome.

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Underwear: check.

Toothpaste and toothbrush: check. Murphy, my stuffed killer whale, who Ruth has already made fun of me for packing: check.

I tried to keep him tucked under my clothes so Ruth wouldn’t spot him if she came into my room. I didn’t want her to see that I was bringing him and say Geez, Olivia, are you thirteen or three? But she did come in, and she did see him, and she did say it, so I guess there’s nothing I can do about that. That’s just Ruth being Ruth, not one of the bad signs I need to watch out for.

Most important, I have my new underwater camera in its own special case, a purple case with a long black strap. It took me four months and extra chores to save up for this camera, but it was more than worth it.</P.

I’m sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor next to my mostly packed luggage when Ruth pokes her head through my doorway. As quickly as I can, I slide the four old pictures I’m looking at under my suitcase. This time Ruth doesn’t notice. “Mom and Dad want us downstairs,” she says.

“Mmkay, coming,” I say. Ruth steps out of view. “Hey, Ruth?”

Her head pops back into frame. “What.”

“Um . . .” Now I’m hesitant, but I say, “What do you remember most from last time?”

“Last time?”


She shrugs. “I dunno. It was years ago.”

Only three years ago, I think. “Do you remember what’s in our secret box?”

“I dunno,” she says again.

I nod. Ruth disappears from my doorway.

It’s not like our secret box is huge or special or anything. It’s just a box. A simple wooden box about the size for shoes. Ruth and I thought it looked like a treasure chest when we were younger, so we put a few of our most treasured things inside, like Polaroid pictures and key chains and plastic bracelets and shells we’d collected. We buried it in a cave at Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, before we moved away three years ago. Not even a cave, really, more an open room in the cliffs along the beach half a mile away from our old house. We walked there all the time, played there, and left our treasure there when I was ten and Ruth was thirteen.

And now? Now we’re going back.

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