Lizzie's Reviews > Breathless

Breathless by Jessica Warman
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's review
Jun 23, 15

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, young-adult, sold-to-the-strand
Recommended to Lizzie by: Secret santa present from Lindsay!
Read from January 22 to 30, 2011

I almost added the similar-appearing Lurlene McDaniel book to Goodreads by mistake. Wonh.

What I liked most about this one was its upfront handling of feelings coming from a painful personal history, and how difficult it is to move on from. Having pain in where you come from is treated here like it is its own conflict, as you try to move on with your life. Katie's home life, and her bond with her mentally ill brother, is established in the beginning before she's sent to a boarding school, and we have a good sense of what's difficult for her here. I really liked that the plot didn't just whisk her away from her past and set her up with a new life. Katie has to go back and forth all the time, and deal with her real life on top of her school life, and figure out which is more truthful. It was all really relatable and a really strong backbone for the book. I dog-eared basically every page that draws some conclusion about these feelings.

Katie's friends at school are well-chosen characters. Estella the unlikable queen bee that you let be your friend anyway, since it's not like you want her to be your enemy. Her needy minion Lindsey, the yin to the yang of every popular girl. Most interesting is the friendship with Katie's roommate Mazzie, based entirely on helping each other cope privately with their families' tragedies. They develop a pretty charming and cranky bond with each other that allows them to help each other a lot, which is really satisfying. (The scene on top of the washing machine is amazing.) There's a lot of cool and honest observations made about these relationships.

And Katie's relationship with her boyfriend Drew explored some interesting territory. His choices and statements throughout are mostly based in his sturdy Christianity, and Katie's uncomfortable with that from the get go, but doesn't know how to assert herself on the subject or choose differently. I thought some of those conflicts between them were really unique: struggling with his "promise to God", and the frequently-stated reason he likes her being that she's so "innocent and lost". He's otherwise a little bit of a too-perfect YA love interest, but the things that made him different were really realistic.

The backstory of Katie's family comes out a leeeeetle melodramatic and could have been reined in to feel more realistic. (Why did her brother's schizophrenia have to be "drug-induced," so she can blame bullying, and set up their family as town outcasts? I guess that is a real thing, but it feels like the author spent too much time on Wikipedia one day and came up with a scenario to support it.) And her parents are kind of cliched in the first half of the book, but they both surprised me later. There's some brave things said about the darkness of families that can't hold together.

Every once in a while there was something that stuck out of the flow, particularly that the passage of time feels weird at several points and goes too fast. And there isn't a ton of atmosphere, either at school or at home. And Katie's passion for swimming doesn't have the impact I felt it would; I was disappointed that we only see her and Drew train and hang out at the pool together the one time. Speaking of atmosphere, I'd think that would be a big one.

I also admit a little disappointment that more didn't develop with the homosexuality suspicions between the girls. The potential for that in this setting is so huge, and it's there just enough that I expected something to happen. I guess that's just a conflict I'm already a fan of and would read the heck out of in a book like this, so I thought it would have more impact on the story. I suppose in this book it might have seemed like too much going on, as by the end there's already a couple different things brought down on Katie for her to deal with judgement from. But it was an interesting ingredient with these characters, and could have been more present too.

It was interesting seeing Katie operate like a real normal teenager a lot. She indulges in a lot of irresponsible habits and ungenerous behavior, and there isn't a ton of moralizing about it. Like I was a little surprised that the author never stepped in to correct Katie's bitter judgement of her teen mom friend from home, for instance, but also those things usually go uncorrected in life, so. I think sometimes YA protagonists are such handy achievers you side with unquestioningly, and Katie bucks that if only a little bit. And she still does a pretty great job.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Theresa You should read the Lurlene, just to see how awful it really is. I read it when looking for this one at the library.

Lizzie Hahaha. I love that you read it. ... I can imagine. Really, I can.

Basil I'm so glad you liked this! I agree about the exploration of the gay suspicions though, now that you mention it. I am absolutely a sucker for that kind of "there is prejudice, whether founded or un-! let us deal with it thusly!" plot.

Lizzie I'm so glad you gave it to me!

I'm like a freak for a story about school kids dealing with homophobia and gay witch hunts and stuff. So really like any book with a whiff of that I'm gonna perk my ears up like a cat who hears a rustle in the other room.

Basil YOU AND ME BOTH. So like... if you know of any books like that ? Pleeeeeease let me know?!?!

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