Uprooted from his home and sent to live with his estranged father, seventeen-year-old William is confronted with a situation in which he has no choice but to help an abused four-year-old boy, When horrible memories begin flood his consciousness, William realizes he and the boy are connected in ways he couldn’t imagine. He vows to hurt those responsible for causing the child so much pain. How William finds the love and compassion he needs to make the right choices is the heart and pulse of this riveting verse novel. Inspired by a true story, Breath to Breath explores what hurt and healing really mean—to survive you hold your breath, but to live you must exhale.
*Given advance copy in exchange for honest review* I've already admitted in the past that I have a weakness for poetry and this book is no exception. I can also honestly say that readers who are unfamiliar with reading stories in verse and don't usually enjoy poetic language/style will almost certainly enjoy this book. Lew creates a story that reads like prose, but makes the reader feel the poetry inside. He grabs the reader with insightful line breaks, word choice, and style that are easy to appreciate without consciously thinking about them while reading.
I love books written in free verse poetry, and BREATH TO BREATH gripped me from page one. I didn't stop reading until I reached the last page. Oh my heart! It got ripped out of my chest. I just wanted to wrap my arms around William. What happened to him chilled me to my soul. The way his personal experiences were revealed is so painful, so stunning (for the writing and for the storyline), and so powerful, that readers won't be able to stop until all the pieces come together. This book is important. Not only does it show the horrors of abuse, but despite the hell, there is hope. There is healing. Without a doubt, this is a novel for Ellen Hopkins fans. Thank you so much for sharing such an important story, Craig!
Sometimes a book takes you down a dark alley to show you something you don’t want to see, but if it’s the small, soft hand of a child tugging you along, you go. In Breath to Breath, readers follow 17 year old William into ugly memories of childhood sexual exploitation. Based on a true story, Breath to Breath reveals a teen whose physical toughness is combined with wrenching empathy for outsiders and it's not long before we, and William, learn why. It’s hard to read descriptions of a childhood crushed between lust and greed, but author Craig Lew doesn’t leave readers in that dark alley; he gives us a flashlight so that we watch William, powered by love and compassion, begin to make his way out of the darkness.
First, you should know that this is a really, really hard novel to read. It's about a child who is sexually abused. It's not graphic, per se, but we know that there is sexual abuse going on, and at least three separate children are victimized. (The other two make a brief appearance toward the end.) So yeah, this is not a fun afternoon's read.
This is also a novel in verse, which I know is a dealbreaker for a lot of people. (I personally like it, but just as a warning to those who don't.)
William's journey throughout this novel is amazing and inspiring. He now lives with his dad---they have not really had a relationship up to this point---and he's in a new state, going to a new school. He's got anger issues that he's trying to bring under control...so basically about every reason you can think of to be unhappy.
Yet he quickly makes a friend and has a potential girlfriend. Things are looking up...except he can't stop thinking about this little kid he met by mistake and who he knows is being sexually abused. He tries everything he can think of to find and help the little boy, but nothing works.
This is the kind of book that will seriously affect you. It's not an easy read, and the ending shattered me. But it's important to read books that will affect you, not just the ones that will make you smile.
These things happen in the world; the least we can do is bear witness.
I received a free advanced copy of this novel from the publisher.
Wow. This is a powerful story and incredibly beautifully written (free-form verse). I had trouble putting it down and am looking forward to anything new from this author.
The copy that I had had not been fully proofread and, though it included the title page for an afterword, that section was not included. I was sorry to miss it. When I reached the end of the novel, I felt as if I'd been holding my breath for ages; when I saw the title page to that section, I was struck with a hope that in reading it, some explanation, some insight, would jumpstart my breathing, calm me down. When I found there was no such section, I found myself sitting stunned, almost disappointed not to get those additional words that would allow me to breathe and settle before putting the book down.
So yes, I loved this book. My only concern is that it is marketed as a book for young adults, but I felt the references to masturbation, rape, and child abuse would make it a very tough read for most teens, and a difficult book for teachers to discuss in most classrooms.
* I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads*
"To survive you hold your breath, but to live you must exhale."
William's world is rocked when he is sent away to live with his estranged father that has been absent for most of his life. Unexpectedly, William becomes involved in a situation where he must help a four year old boy. As he digs deeper, William discovers just how extreme the boys stories of sexual abuse are. In a way William can't understand he is connected to this little boy. As there connection grows stronger, horrible and disturbing memories begin to surface. Lies, betrayal, and abuse send William into a downward spiral. Will he find a way to help save the little boy and get revenge on those who have caused so much pain?
Written in a poetry type format, Craig Lew a stunning yet devastating story about trying to help others while running from your own gut wrenching past.
"Inspired by a true story, Breath to Breath explores what hurt and healing really mean."
Breath to Breath is a powerful and moving story about a young man with a troubled past who is seeking to help a child escape unspeakable treatment.
The horrific and the noble are at war in Breath to Breath. Craig puts them on the same page with an artistic touch. His writing is compelling and beautiful even while dealing with violence and cruelty. I was completely absorbed by the story.
It is impossible to award stars to a book like this because it is just so devastating to know that it was inspired by a true story and that this happens every day to children across the world. An important and powerful novel that inspires discussion, awareness and vigilance.
As an avid reader, I've come to appreciate the aphorism that says, "Read books. Don't believe them." Some of the most powerful books young adults find - Go Ask Alice, A Child Called "It" - aren't quite what they claim to be. While they document serious subjects, they aren't clouded with complexity or nuance. By drawing a lineage from "Breath to Breath" to these earlier books, I mean it as both compliment and criticism. All three are simple and earnest; again, that can be for good or ill.
The verse novel moves along simply and without difficulty. William, about to be a senior in high school, has arrived in sunny California to live with his estranged dad, fleeing some tragedy in Kansas (problems with the law, dead Grandfather, etc.). William struggles to build a new life. While there's some friends, a job, and athletic success, he's also dogged by some very strange omens that he can't quite shake. The tension builds nicely, even if the climax is over-the-top and a little problematic. While the story does a good job rendering the contradictory thoughts and behaviors that sometimes bedevil young men, the resolution is pure white-knight fantasy over sinister villainy. That is to say: completely unrealistic.
Even though the story orbits around violence, abuse, and sexual assault (kudos for depicting a male survivor), it offers hope and lots of "if in need of help, contact...." resources at the end. The 'inspired by a true story' tag on the cover feeds into the need some teens have for authenticity in their reading, as does the explicit depiction of abuse.
My chief complaint is that the climactic heroism at the end is superhero-style wish fulfillment of the sort that makes for spiffy Hollywood endings, but isn't available in reality. Teens who read this sort of story want to believe it, however unbelievable it may be. Give to readers of Crank and Street Pharm.
Despite being uprooted from his home to live with his estranged father, seventeen-year-old William can’t seem to escape his history of violence. Just after moving in he is led by a stray dog to an eight-year-old boy being bullied by a group of teenagers. William goes into a frenzy as he comes to the boy’s rescue leaving one of the bullies with a broken collar bone. After returning the boy’s backpack, William hears sniffling through a fence and meets a four-year-old boy named Patches who disappears right in front of him. The days pass and William continues to encounter both the dog and Patches from a distance, inexplicably drawn to the boy. During one chance meeting, Patches confesses to William that he is being sexually abused and runs away before William can help. He then begins to ‘hear’ Patches, among other children, when no one is around. When William’s new school friend, Shasten, reveals to him that she is an empath and that she feels William might be too, she encourages him to use his special connection to reach out to Patches. Saving the boy becomes an obsession that culminates in a gripping confrontation that will leave the reader breathless!
Written in a raw, authentic teen voice, Breath to Breath allows the reader see and feel everything that William experiences; anxiety over a high school crush, pride in making the football team, respect for a real friend, helplessness for the little boy, rage for his teammates, longing for love from a distant father, shame for his past, sadness for a future that may never come. Inspired by a true story and written in the style of Ellen Hopkins, this novel-in-verse, will keep you on the edge of your seat from your first breath until your last! But note, this book is for older teens due to detailed sexual abuse.
“Breath to Breath left me speechless. It’s a powerful, raw story that grabbed me from page one and dragged me through a turbulent, emotional journey of pain and terror, healing and triumph, bringing clarity and hope. I loved it.” – Ann K., age 18, Benicia, CA
After the death of his grandfather, seventeen-year-old William is sent across country from his quiet Kansas home to live with his estranged father on the coast of California, His dad has four house rules: the second floor is off limits; no friends over; don’t fuck with the TV and get a job! The new school provides a mix of acceptance and rejection. A mix of: bullies, a compassionate counselor, a geeky boy, and cool football coach provide at least some stability in this rocky new world. He’s starting to find his feet when he is confronted with a situation in which he feels compelled to help an abused four-year-old boy, “Patches’. He continues to encounter an elusive Patches and hears and sees things which start to unlock things in his past.
While he discovers new sides to himself as a skilled football player, accepting friend of outcast, Ollie, and prospective boyfriend of cute empath, Shasten, William’s world is blown apart as he tries to help the abused kid. The search for Patches’ real identity and whereabouts leads William to the truth behind the mysterious young boy’s stories of extreme sexual abuse. As William battles with devastating memories surging into his consciousness, he discovers the unexpected connection he has with the little abused boy. Seething rage drives him to steal a neighbor’s guns, convinced he must kill those responsible for betraying one so young and causing so much pain.
Through his own evolution and encounters with caring teens and adults, William finds the compassion he needs to make difficult choices as the book concludes. Inspired by a true story, BREATH TO BREATH explores what hurt and healing really mean: to survive you hold your breath, but to live you must exhale.
Why I like This Book:
Young adult readers unfamiliar with reading stories in verse and who don’t usually enjoy poetic language will almost certainly enjoy this book. Craig Lew creates a story that combines the lyrical with cinematic action and doesn’t fall into the trap of adulterating story for the sake of language. The story moves forward with energy and passion and yet with time to inhale, pause and absorb some of the internal anguish of William’s world. This is a masterful debut verse novel with great pacing, dynamic word choice, and a style that carries the reader into the narrative and William’s conscious and subconscious with ease despite the pain we will encounter.
The subject matter is gritty and at times harrowing, with violence and graphic sexual content. The choice of verse proves very apt for converting these hard moments. No scene or language felt extraneous and knowing this was based on a true story, helped me understand the content choice. Despite the lies, betrayal and abuse William has experienced, the novel is beautiful and the thread of empathy woven throughout the story allows for an uplifting aftertaste when the last page has been read.
The NCTSN states that, “Child sexual abuse is not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported.” I welcome books like breath to breath for our teens. While this will never be an easy topic to read or speak about, it is so important that our young people read stories like this to give them courage to speak out and seek help for themselves and others. This is a profoundly moving, tragic and superbly crafted book that I hope will find its place onto many school library shelves.
Wow. This is the first free verse book I've read that is not by Ellen Hopkins but I saw that she reviewed and blurbed it, so here I am. You can really tell that this author looks up to Ellen Hopkins in her writing and he nailed it. This was just as beautifully written and just as heart-wrenching. Like some of Ellen's stories, this one too is unfortunately based on a true one, which makes it that much harder to read. But the author did a wonderful job with it, I won't say more because I feel like you should just jump into this one without knowing much.
William Stout’s journey begins on a train to meet and live with the dad he’s never known, and ends in a hospital room, surrounded by people he has learned to love, and those he will try to forgive. Written in free verse, Breath to Breath follows William’s physical and emotional transformation to the revealing of his deepest dreams, fears, and secrets. Leaving Kansas for California after a run-in with the authorities, William tries to adapt to a new school and the surfer scene and the bare bones, stark home his father begrudgingly offers to share, as long as William follows strict rules and gets a job. Trying to follow the rules proves challenging, and William is thrown into a series of altercations with local boys, the pursuit of a stray dog and a strange child who may be in trouble, and a promising romance. These exchanges tap into subconscious memories that eventually expose the painful truth about his past and his fractured family, including acute sexual abuse, exploitation, and abandonment.
Craig Lew is a writer and director who produced and directed a film adaption of Ellen Hopkins’ Crank, about teenage drug abuse. Like Hopkins’s work, this novel is poignant and painfully revealing and deals with explicit sexual and violent content. His choice of free form verse also recalls Hopkins’s style, although the debut work does not display her masterful flow and dynamism. Breath to Breath will appeal to fans of Hopkins as well as David Levithan and Patricia McCormick and is highly recommended for older teens.
I received this book for free through one of the Goodreads giveaways.
When I first received the book, I flipped through it and noticed that it was written in prose. This threw me off a little bit at first, since I had never written a book in this format. but once I started reading I realized that it didn't negatively impact the story at all. In fact, it added to the feeling and weight of the words.
This story gripped me and drew me in. It is shattering and, honestly, sometimes hard to take. Knowing that this was based on a true story, I cannot fathom what might lead a person to put children through any type of abuse. If this book was hard to read, I can't imagine what it would be like to actually live through the experiences.
I recommend reading this book. It is gripping and eye-opening and it will definitely stick with you for a while. It is graphic and troubling, so be aware of this before you begin reading.
I'm glad a received this book, and I look forward to reviewing more.
Out of all the novels on abuse that I’ve read, I think Breath to Breath was the worst. Worst in the sense that it gave the most unembellished and gritty view of what it is like to have survived an abusive childhood. After reaching halfway into this story, I was convinced that the blurb was wrong and that the story is really about a troubled teen who gets a chance to start over. Then, I read past page 57 and couldn’t stop reading. Sexual abuse is such a sensitive topic but Craig Lew seems to find the most unique and gut-wrenching way to tell Will’s story. I’ve only read a few books written in verse and they were just average but Breath to Breath goes beyond your usual verse novel. The voice of the narrator is never lost throughout the story and, even though fewer words are used, the description of people, places and events are clear as ever. Find the full review on The Young Folks: http://tinyurl.com/zmy8tys
Free verse poetry is a beautiful, vivid way to tell this story without having to get "graphic" about the most painful details of William's life to this point. The novel tackles the hardest topics, with bullying being the least difficult! Abandonment and child sexual abuse are not subjects we are comfortable with - certainly not for our teens. Breath to Breath shows teens (and adults) the realities of these social ills, but in a way that is eye-opening, thought-provoking, and in the end, uplifting.
There's more to our review. Visit the the Reading Tub to see why we unconditionally recommend this book. You can add your review, too.
*Received advance copy through Goodreads Giveaway*
When reading the summary of this book, I was not sure how much I would enjoy this book considering the heavy subject matter. However, the verse format of this book was something I have never experienced before and really left a lasting impression on me. I was amazed at the power this book had without needing to fill each page with paragraphs of text.
Fresh, raw verse that creates a haunting vision of the fear and pain felt by the protaganist.
This is one of only a few stories I have read written in verse and am amazed that they are so good and tell such indepth stories; although why I am surprised is not clear given that The Ancient Rhyme of the Mariner was one of my favorite readings in high school.
The author, Craig Lew, proves with this book that he is a powerhouse writer for Young Adults.
Wow! Let me catch my breath. Written in free verse poetry and dealing with the serious topic of sexual abuse/molestation. Breath to Breath had me gripped from the get go. A touching, heart melting story of strength and survival made it a fast read. Unputdownable. Beautiful and brilliant. Mr. Lew I will be looking out for your next one.
Wow! Read this book in about three hours. I was skeptical of the writing style at first and almost didn't read it. I am so glad I continued reading this powerful, moving story. Though I figured it out early on it still managed to knock me to my core when all was revealed. To anyone who isn't sure about this book I can say for sure you won't be disappointed.
While it's classified as YA it's meant for a very mature audience. The story is based on a real person but the raw emotion of the abuse isn't described like it was in Such A Pretty Girl. The reader can tell the writer did not experience such abuse because the details and language managed to be graphic but detached.
This was one of my first poetry books I have read. I honestly enjoy this book so much. It’s a very powerful read. When I first read the book the middle was kinda confusing and a little slow but overall it’s a very good book. To me I loved the ending it really was a surprise to me. I loved that about this book.