Breathe and Count Back From Ten
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.
Natalia's appearance is a school-visit only.
Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester is an award-winning writer of novels, essays, and poetry. Chasing the Sun was named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad Magazine and Everyone Knows You Go Home won an International Latino Book Award and the 2019 Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her debut YA novel, Running, was a 2020 Junior Library Guild Selection and her sophomore YA, Breathe and Count Back From Ten, is a 2023 Pura Belpré Award honor book and a Schneider Family Award honor book. Her first picture book, A Maleta Full of Treasures, illustrated by Juana Medina, will be out in 2024 from Penguin Random House. Sylvester's essays have appeared in the New York Times, Bustle, Catapult, Latina magazine, and McSweeney’s Publishing, and have been widely anthologized. She received a BA in creative writing from the University of Miami and now lives in South Florida.