Sophie Hardcastle Book Reviews: ‘Running Like China’ and ‘Breathing Under Water’

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Author of two of the most carefully crafted books of all time, Sophie Hardcastle holds a raw talent of shaping works worthy of discovery. Her soft but honest approach to mental illness lights up the pages as her readers follow closely behind her, glued to her words.

I read Breathing Under Water on the sands of Fiji one September, and it truly touched me in a way no book ever had. It wasn’t the breeze. It wasn’t the atmosphere of being far away from home. It was the place I was taken to while reading her book. The words danced off the pages, and I often found myself doing a double take at how descriptive and clear her sentences were. Sometimes you see a quote or read a paragraph, and all of a sudden you feel different. Your mind is uplifted, and it makes you think in a new way. Her books create this feeling in a surprising, subtle way.

Breathing Under Water is the fictional story of twins — Ben and Grace. Life seems perfect until a bomb is dropped (not literally), and something happens to change their lives forever. Sophie tells a remarkable tale about learning to grieve and grow. Grace changes more than any character I’ve ever come across, and the way it is portrayed is real. It’s confronting but beneficial for Grace and readers alike. This book is unlike any young adult novel with its fluent writing style and eye-opening themes, without overdoing either factor.

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Running Like China is the best autobiography I have read. The morals in this book are so well-thought-out and cleverly communicated. Once again, Sophie carries a unique rhythm throughout it, constructing a sophisticated, brutally honest memoir. She tells the unfortunate tale of dealing with Bipolar 1 Disorder and the amazing things she was able to accomplish despite it. Sophie perfectly displays how hard life can truly be while highlighting what remains important through it all: family, friends, and the little things. The only way to resolve something is to get to the bottom of it, and this incredible book depicts that exactly — zooming in on every nook and cranny of her not-so-perfect life, never just breaching the surface. She addresses everything, no matter how broken, and this allows hope, a quality Sophie carries through her words of wisdom and inspiration throughout both books. “No matter how deep you sink, the surface is always within reach.”

Sophie Hardcastle is a beautiful Australian author, and I encourage every young adult to read and breathe her enlightening words.

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