Breathe and Count Back from Ten (Paperback)

Breathe and Count Back from Ten By Natalia Sylvester Cover Image
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A Pura Belpré Honor Book * A Schneider Family Book Award Honor Book for Teens

In this gorgeously written and authentic novel, Verónica, a Peruvian-American teen with hip dysplasia, auditions to become a mermaid at a Central Florida theme park in the summer before her senior year, all while figuring out her first real boyfriend and how to feel safe in her own body.

Verónica has had many surgeries to manage her disability. The best form of rehabilitation is swimming, so she spends hours in the pool, but not just to strengthen her body.

Her Florida town is home to Mermaid Cove, a kitschy underwater attraction where professional mermaids perform in giant tanks . . . and Verónica wants to audition. But her conservative Peruvian parents would never go for it. And they definitely would never let her be with Alex, her cute new neighbor.

She decides it’s time to seize control of her life, but her plans come crashing down when she learns her parents have been hiding the truth from her—the truth about her own body.

About the Author

Natalia Sylvester is the author Running, her YA debut, as well as two novels for adults, Everyone Knows You Go Home, which won an International Latino Book Award, and Chasing the Sun. Born in Lima, Peru, she grew up in Miami, Central Florida, and South Texas, and received a BFA from the University of Miami. She currently lives in Austin, Texas. Look for her at and follow her on Twitter @NataliaSylv.


Praise For…

"Seamlessly explores bodily autonomy and familial expectations through a perceptive protagonist, sharp narration, and complex relationships. . . . Powerful and engrossing." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Intricate, nuanced, and empowering." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"An authentic portrait of a character who wants to be seen for who she is and not the limitations placed on her."  — Booklist

"Readers will be pleased to see Verónica strike the right balance of being authentic to herself while valuing relationships as a two-way street." — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"Sylvester blends the compelling struggle of a young woman trying to find her voice with the effects of living with a serious medical condition"  — Horn Book Magazine

"A poignant and powerful story... Real and beautifully relevant." — Laura Taylor Name, New York Times bestselling author of A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow

"Breathtaking and utterly original... A tribute to disabled bodies and a vital addition to YA literature." — Lillie Lainoff, author of One for All

"With its deep honest, hope, emotion, and tenderness, this is a coming-of-age story I will forever hold close to my heart." — Jonny Garza Villa, author of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun

"A gorgeous, heartfelt exploration of what it means to know and love the body that you have... A shimmering triumph of a book." — Amanda Leduc, author of The Centaur's Wife and Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space

Product Details
ISBN: 9780358697305
ISBN-10: 0358697301
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2023
Pages: 352
Language: English