Review: Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally

22846825Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?

Release date: July 1, 2017 (Sourcebooks Fire)

Thanks to Netgally and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an e-ARC!

Anyone who knows me knows how much I dive for Miranda Kenneally’s novels. They’re guaranteed to make my day, and it helps that some of the characters in older Hundred Oaks books appear in newer ones as cameos, which makes the lightheartedness and romance that much more special. So it’s really no surprise that I liked Coming Up For Air.

This installment – if that’s what you choose to call it – is about Maggie and her best friend Levi, who are training for Olympic swimming qualifiers. In between challenging herself to actually make the cut despite an old rival (Roxy), Maggie is also trying to balance a normal future college life with her newfound sexual desires, and trusts Levi, who’s had much more experience in that department, to “teach” her. It seems like a complicated story, but since it’s Miranda Kenneally, I was no less excited to read it.

I have several mixed feelings about the book, and the only way I can discuss them is by comparing my reading experience for Coming Up for Air with Kenneally’s previous release, Defending Taylor. While its predecessor made me actually fall in love with the love interest (Ezra), Coming Up for Air lacked in that department – at least in the first half of the book. Don’t get me wrong – I did like Levi, and he definitely made a swoon-worthy character, as this author’s love interests (and protagonists) tend to do. But I felt that I was seeing more of Maggie’s investment in the relationship than Levi’s (again, that developed a bit better later on), and it seemed that there was a short gap between their friendship and their sexual attraction for each other – not really an in-between.

But that doesn’t take away from what I did like about the book infinitely more. For example, I liked how Miranda handled Maggie’s feelings like a teenager would, and that the conversations Maggie had with all of her friends, her peers, and her coach, parents, and teachers, were significant in her self-improvement as a swimmer. One of the things I most like about Miranda’s novels is how simple they appear but how important they actually are – including the presence of parental figures and helpful teachers. I barely knew Maggie’s parents or Levi’s Oma and Opa, but I felt like I knew enough about them, which says a lot about character development. And of course, Sam and Jordan made an appearance (and there was a lovely epilogue at the end of the novel in Sam’s POV!!) so I was a happy reader.

What I liked the most (if this review isn’t gushing enough) was how Miranda balanced two conflicts at once and merged them in some form. Here, Maggie’s struggle to qualify for the Olympics was also in harmony with her struggle to be a normal teenager with sexual desires, and Levi basically hung in the balance with his own desire to make the cut and depend on sex to “take the edge off”. It only seemed likely that both would depend on each other, and I felt that this was handled perfectly. While I mentioned before that Levi wasn’t as swoon-worthy to me as I’d hoped, the romance definitely developed further as the story progressed. I liked that Levi made up for what he’d done to Maggie and that Maggie took her time forgiving him, as she deserved. This is definitely something I liked better in Coming Up for Air than I had in Defending Taylor, which is that self-development outweighed anything else.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t recommend this book, so I obviously will, if you’re looking for a lighthearted, quick read, with a lovely friends-to-lovers romance and a lot of self-improvement lessons. I laughed a lot during this book – especially at the Superman briefs and the condom-shopping! – and yes, smiled wistfully. Be sure to read this when it releases!

4 stars!

– W


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