Reason to Breathe: Nikki’s Book Review

I’ve been attached to my iPad lately, not because I can’t stop playing Words with Friends, but because I finally started to understand just how many books I can download and carry around with me in one place. It’s similar to the revelation I had about my iPod back in high school (‘whoa, I can carry all of my music around with me in this tiny little box? Cool!’ or something like that), and so there has been a lot of reading in random places for me. I’ve even caught myself running to my desk in the mornings after spending a half hour in the parking garage reading something I can’t put down. I’ve been reading as I cross the street on my lunch half-hour, in line while picking up something to eat, the entire time I’m eating and the whole way back. And believe me when I say it takes a pretty intense read to be able to pull me in like this. It hasn’t happened in a long time, and it happened this past week. On a whim, after re-reading one of the books that I couldn’t put down (Laura Wiess, I would love to have coffee with you some day), I bought one of the recommendations that popped up on Amazon. I’d never heard of the book before, had no idea who the author was, and figured I’d trust Amazon’s judgment as to what I liked.

Reason to Breathe is remarkable for a break out novel, and even less of a young adult novel than I thought it would have been. I was expecting something along Sarah Dessen’s line of writing, with adolescent confusion, heartache, and inevitable resolution that everything can work out all right if you have friends, family and loved ones alongside you. And it took me a little while to realize I was in for something very, very different. Forget any kind of easy life for a teenage girl (hint: she has bigger problems than what to wear to the prom), Emma Thomas is harboring a secret that she can’t share with anyone. Her silence has resulted in an immersion in academics and sports, and aside from one close friend, she’s chosen a life of solitude. But high school doesn’t always go the way we might plan it to, and when Evan Mathews unceremoniously appears in her life, Emma’s world becomes precariously unbalanced. And that’s where the story really begins to unfold.

In book reviews I’m adamant about not revealing too much of the story, because nothing irritates me more than a (well meaning) friend trying to help me decide if I’ll enjoy a book, then (inadvertently) revealing key pieces of plot information or (worst case of all) the ending. Talk about a serious buzz kill, especially when it comes to a girl like me who loves to read. So in the interest of not being ‘that girl’, I’m not going to divulge anything more about the plot or what happens to Emma and Evan.

What I will say is that Reason to Breathe is one of the most gripping, real stories I’ve read. Take everything you think you know about the life of a teenager, then strip away any semblance of comfort and support, add in raw and unrestricted fear and the knowledge that there’s no way out, and you might have a fraction of what Emma Thomas is made to face every day. Part of what makes the book so impossible to put down is how real Emma’s character is. She has all the facets and layers of a teenage girl, but her secret adds another element that intensifies the emotion of the book all the more. Author Rebecca Donovan takes the dark, unspoken terrors that lurk in our minds and coaxes them out, then brings them into full, blinding view. There’s no escape, nowhere to hide, and no one to go to for help, for fear of consequences that bring about nightmares and visions of terror. I’ve never seen so much emotion in this many pages, and I’ve never been so riveted to an author’s work that I had to cover my mouth while reading so my gasps of surprise wouldn’t alarm those within earshot.

I could go on and on about Reason to Breathe, and I hope that this isn’t Rebeccan Donovan’s only work. The Amazon page calls it part of the Breathing Series which has me hopeful and anxious for what will come next.

Until next time,

Damsel Nikki

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