Bree Hanley is a seventh grader who faces a host of obstacles when she and her father move to Florida from New York. Her dad works two jobs so he isn’t around much to offer support as she struggles to make friends at her new middle school. Bree’s new home, Palmetto Shores, is obsessed with competitive swimming. Bree’s first choice elective, Math Puzzles, is full and the only activity with space is Swim 101. Bree struggles with anxiety, so having to participate in the spotlight sport – while navigating the challenges of being the new girl at school – proves to be overwhelming. Despite these hurdles she makes a bold move and agrees to join her friends on the swim team. Can new friends and a surprising connection to her town’s last championship swim team help her get through?
Vibrant colors bring the lively characters and settings to life. Issues of racism and classism are communicated well in both art and text, which is well-suited for the intended middle grade audience. Bree’s struggles with anxiety are powerfully illustrated with dark clouds spelling out her fears. They contrast with the colors of the world outside of her head, showing how oppressive those thoughts can be. Most of the characters are Black, which opens up the conversation about how a history of segregation prevented Black people from accessing public pools and beaches. The inclusion of resources to learn more about these issues is a bonus.
This comic is relatable to a wide audience, regardless of any connection to middle school or swimming. Many of us in new, uncomfortable situations have experienced anxiety. The narrative shows that finding support in friends and community can be the first steps on a path to healing.