Compared to other contemporaries, Coming Up for Air falls slightly short of the gold.
Coming Up for Air follows competitive swimmer Maggie who hopes to qualify for the Olympic trials. As senior year winds down, Maggie regrets not doing many normal high school activities like going to school dances or having a boyfriend. Maggie hopes to overcome his biggest regret–never making out with a boy–by receiving a little help from her cute best friend, Levi.
Before Coming Up for Air, I only read one other book by Miranda Kenneally and was slightly disappointed. In Stealing Parker, I didn’t really like any of the relationships and felt that many of the characters were very one dimensional. While I liked Coming Up for Air a lot more than Stealing Parker, I found some of the same problems.
First, I’ll start with the positives. I really liked Maggie as a main character and felt like many people could relate to her struggles. Maggie never felt good enough in swimming or her social life. Even though she was an elite swimmer with a tight group of friends, she focused more on her flaws and feared for her future college life. Since Maggie is so relatable, it helps readers to invest in her story and see her as a real person.
On the other hand, I found a few of the other characters to be a little stereotypical. In Stealing Parker, Parker’s main rival was an ex-childhood friend and you never really understood why she hated Parker so much. Roxy in Coming Up for Air was the same character who only seemed relevant to ruin Maggie’s swimming career or relationship with Levi.
Levi also felt very stereotypical for a YA contemporary. When I think of Levi, I can’t think of a single flaw besides having a bad relationship with his father or his flirty personality. Otherwise, Levi is absolutely perfect. He’s cute, reads books, kisses well, and always appears when something goes wrong for Maggie. Besides his inability to define their relationship, he remains perfect, which made it more difficult to see him as a real person.
As for the relationship… it wasn’t what I expected. From the book’s description, it seemed like Maggie would do a bucket list before her senior year ended of all the fun experiences she wanted to have before graduation. Instead, the book solely focused on making out with a boy and gaining as much experience as possible before college so she won’t be labeled as a loser.
That being said, the first half of the book reminded me of an episode from The Secret Life of a Teenager. I expected Maggie and Levi to slowly move from being friends to being in a relationship. However, they quickly started a friends with benefits relationship early on in the book. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I wasn’t what I expected either. The first half of the book was only filled with Maggie and Levi making out in various locations. I felt like I never saw the emotional point when their relationship turned from friends to something more, which detracted from their relationship.
Even though I had several problems with the first half of the book, I enjoyed the second half of the book more because it better balanced all of Maggie’s problems rather than just focusing on her relationship with Levi. Maggie really grew as a character and this helped me appreciate her relationship with Levi more. I also really enjoyed Miranda Kenneally’s easy and real writing style that made the book quick to read.
Overall, Coming Up for Air will be a great book to read by the pool this summer, but doesn’t really stand out against other contemporaries. While I liked the second half of the book, sometimes the relationship and a few of the characters fell flat for me. I rate Coming Up for Air as three out of five stars.
I received Coming Up for Air via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.