Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally is a contemporary YA romance about a girl, Maggie, who has been so incredibly focused on becoming an Olympian, that she realizes that she is about to graduate high school and hasn’t even had a boyfriend. She feels self doubt over her looks and the idea of being inexperienced as a negative force in her life, so she decides to change it. After a failed attempt (or, rather, an escaped attempt) at hooking up on a college visit, she propositions her best friend Levi to teach her the ropes of the physical nature of dating. But without the dating. No strings. As they are both focused on swimming, school, and more swimming, they have no room for what they think of as a real relationship. So at first, though Levi needs to think about it, it seems idyllic that they have a built-in strong friendship and could more or less be affectionate with one another without any hurt feelings.
Ultimately what comes of it is fun flirtations, some ground rules, heavy touching, followed by a rush of emotions, heart ache, and a chance at that elusive “real” relationship if they can get their act together. This book is a little steamy in the tension between Maggie and Levi as they progress from kissing to… more than kissing, and then more and more. Emotional tension is strong as well, so bear in mind, they are getting in deeper than just physical attraction. What I found interesting about this book is all of the times that they practice proper consent, which is not often the case in romance fiction. Levi even goes as far to tell Maggie something to the effect of… if you aren’t comfortable telling someone what you want in bed, you shouldn’t be in bed with them. Which is utterly true. So bravo for some well informed consent choices in this book. Hopefully it remained true throughout, but from my recollection, it was on point. (If there were slip ups, it didn’t feel like it was in an unnatural way.)
Another thing people (parents) could be concerned about in this book is that it seems like everyone is having sex. And using it in ways that are not romantic. Like to relieve stress from sports. But those are usually examples, in the book, of relationships that aren’t necessarily healthy. And they know it.
Another concern that I thought may come up, but didn’t, was the issue of single sport athletes, and the proven issues with specializing in a single sport during high school or younger… combine that with parents that are not happy enough with their child’s performance at said sport, and all the contemporary psychological issues that… ya… so that’s not all in the book, that’s just what ran through my mind a few times while reading it. (I read too much non-fiction as well!) But the parent thing, the one where the parent isn’t satisfied with their child’s performance… that definitely IS in the book. Not for the main characters, Maggie and Levi, but it is there. And it is worth having there to show the differences between parental relationships.
Okay, so this has gotten off course a little. Overall, it was a really enjoyable read. There are some good examples of healthy relationships, and not so healthy relationships, and it’s easy to tell the difference between the two. There are also good and bad examples of sportsmanship, and again, it is easy to tell the difference between the two. The bad examples are not glorified.
The main characters are likable, and trust me, reading about swim team made me wonder why I stuck with the ski team for so long. These kids seem to have way more fun. I also liked Maggie’s failed hookup because it showed a poor decision… that happened to turn out okay. It could have gone really wrong. But more often than not, I do hear more bad stories like hers than the BAD date stories with not-so-happy endings. It was nice to avoid that heavier darkness of dating.
So if you are looking for a light romance, and do not mind some steamier (but not super graphic) moments, this book could be for you. This was the first read of Miranda Kenneally’s that I’ve done, and I look forward to checking out some of her other books! Coming Up for Air is scheduled for release on July 1, 2017… just in time to make it a perfect beach read. I’d recommend it for mature teens and up.
Note: Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.