Swim. 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?
Coming Up for Air is the only book I’ve read by Miranda Kenneally, and is as such impossible to rate. Similar to everything I’ve checked out from another well known contemporary author, Kasie West, I got the vibe from this one that I should be ranking it not in terms of 3 stars vs. 4 stars but in Catching Jordan vs. Stealing Parker (two of Kenneally’s most beloved books). But seeing as this is my first go around with the Thousand Oaks series I could be completely wrong. Also worth noting: I said first. As in implying more to come later. Because even though this story was barely doggy paddling towards the middle (see what I did there) it was a super fun breeze 90% of the time. A big part of that is thanks to the writing, which Kenneally keeps very fitting for a summer chick-lity contemporary. It’s fast paced, is very dialogue centric (the characters are pretty funny too btw), and it doesn’t try too hard. By that I mean a lot of books I’ve read in a similar vein recently have tried to dump a million separate plot threads into one beach romance. Kenneally, however, owns it. She knows people expect cute and heartfelt when they open one of her books, so she delivers. A perfectly composed ode to the growing pains that can be senior year, Coming Up for Air is an A+ read if sweet contemporaries are your jam.
For starters, all the characters in this story are just so likable. Which, though not necessarily true to life, was really refreshing to read. There’s a great relationship dynamic for Maggie, and her girl bestie Georgia is the perfect picture of what female friendship should look like in YA. Be warned that Coming Up for Air does follow the (way overdone) trope of best friend turned crush turned boyfriend. However it’s not nearly as cringey as it usually is, mostly because I bought Maggie and Levi’s chemistry from the beginning. Also, thank God Maggie herself was interesting to read about. She’s a hard worker, and anyone who’s ever fought for a dream will sympathize with her struggle to remain an elite swimmer. Her confusion over love is also relatable and perfectly captures the roller coaster emotions of a seventeen year old. I didn’t quite buy the whole “friends with benefits” storyline that pops up in the middle of things (and quickly disappears) but that is largely due to Levi. He was pretty flat for most of the book, and I had a hard time connecting with him separate from Maggie. Not because he was awful, just lacking in a lot of personality. One character who was genuinely the worst is Roxie, Maggie’s rival in the pool. She’s pretty much the picture of your third grade school yard bully, and her inclusion is laughable most of the time. She’s the only aspect of this book that left me thinking “WTH is happening here.” All around though, I approve.
My thoughts on the most important element of Coming Up for Air, the romance, are in line with the overall three star rating I gave it. Magvi/Leggie (???) were cute together, but lacked in flair. Readers will know right from the beginning how things are going to end up for the two, and even the “getting there” offers few surprises along the way. Because I liked their interactions though this was never too big of a grievance.
Coming Up for Air is the quintessential summer contemporary, though I don’t know if I can recommend it to someone well versed in the genre. There’s little truly unique about it, and I can see where the sweet story would quickly turn dull for someone with a been there done that mentality. Cute, but you’re not missing out if you decide to skip it.