Rose's Reviews > Ten Tiny Breaths

Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker
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did not like it
bookshelves: arc-or-galley, contemporary, romance, tough-subjects, new-adult, netgalley

Initial reaction: I think most people know from my status updates on this that I didn't like this book, but I think reflecting upon the work on a number of different levels, it's more than just one element or the measure that this fell into many New Adult cliches. This book really got under my skin on how poorly it was written, how poorly it treats some very weighted, but very real issues (PTSD, depression, etc.) and how it manipulates dramatic scenarios to the point that none of it felt real. There is a part of me that's interested in hearing Liviey's story, because that's contained in the sequel, but honestly? I don't think the writing will carry that well based on what I see in this book. It may be subject to change/improve, but I honestly have no idea. This just wasn't done well. I have many bases to cover in the full review, but I'll try to be as concise about it as I can, and note some of my respective issues with it.

Full review:

I sat on my hands intentionally before writing a review on "Ten Tiny Breaths" because I felt I needed to think about what didn't work with this book. Let alone the fact that the book upset and disappointed me on a number of different levels. I could go into an extended discussion on how there's really nothing new that distinguishes "Ten Tiny Breaths" from other titles in the "coined" New Adult genre, but for me, this actually could've been a much better novel if the writing wasn't so terrible among other aspects. It makes many basic mistakes on the level of the narrative aspects of the writing as well as the presentation of many different issues. And it's emotionally manipulative to top it off.

Some of you might be wincing at this point and say "Rose, that's harsh" but when I say emotionally manipulative here, I don't say it with much snark or mirth. I'm saying that the story - in technical terming - manipulates the emotional resonance in a horrible way here. Whether it was intentional or unintentional, I don't know, but I really think this story could've been so much stronger than what it was - I saw where it was going, I saw what it was trying to do. It just didn't handle it well at all; I've read stories in other terms that have taken these issue and made them hit home with so much more impact. Further, there were a number of things in this story that really offended me. I'll address much of that shortly.

Let's begin by talking about Kacey, the protagonist. She's a tough cookie for sure considering she's suffering from a heavy measure of PTSD after a horrific accident in which her family, boyfriend, and pretty much everyone she loved was killed except for her and her little sister Livie, who happened to stay home that day. Kacey was the only survivor of the crash. I would expect her to be bitter, go through the motions, and be psychologically damaged. I would expect her to lash out and have trouble with relationships and have recollections from the crash, alongside nightmares that perhaps her family (Poor, poor Livie) would have to contend with from time to time. Those factors I didn't mind at all. I also didn't mind the fact that she ran off with her little sister (15-year old Livie, who was pretty much the major character I liked somewhat consistently in this book, even if she wasn't always at the forefront). Livie was nearly molested by their uncle, and that prompted Kacey to pick up their things and get away from home. I actually didn't like how the book depicted them leaving home - what with some drug induced manipulations and whatnot, but I figured for the sake of the story, I'd follow it.

Kacey really turned out to be a horrible protagonist in more ways than one, basically coming across in spurts as the female version of Travis Maddox from Beautiful Disaster. She slut shames every woman she comes across (including her neighbor Storm, who I have to say was a nice character in framework and I would've liked to see more of her than Kacey). Kacey uses and loses people she sleeps with, thinks every man she comes across is a misogynistic twat (which to be honest, every single male character in this really is misogynistic in some way, including the hero). Kacey has a penchant for violence and she either thinks of beating down the people she's around or she actually does so in physical measures (I'm trying to figure out how the author thought this was okay?). There's also another confrontation where she came close to killing a man with a broken bottle. I'm not going to say she didn't have her reasons because of events, but I still couldn't wrap my head around her actions even in context with what occurred.

On the level of the writing in this, it was very tedious to move through - Kacey does a lot of info-dumping and repeating of the accidents events in bits and pieces up to the actual recall, which makes the narrative overbearing and overselling/stating the point. In a more mature narrative, it probably wouldn't have been a problem, but the writing is juvenile the way it's presented. Melodramatic even. Cliched, certainly, to the level of committing several offenses. I could talk about the slut shaming, body shaming, bitch slamming, sexual objectification, misogyny among other things that goes along with other NA reads in current spectra, but I want to turn attention briefly to another problematic issue that rears its head in this novel: racial appropriation.

Yeah, I'm going there. Pretty much the only two minority characters featured in this book are sexually objectified and/or shamed in some way. They're both strippers, and while their occurrence may fit somehow in the context of where Kacey works, I didn't get any other impression in this novel other than they were there as diversity set pieces. The Asian stripper was shamed because of a certain way she could move her body (and that had the underlying subtext of denouncing her), while a Native American stripper is shamed in a manner by doing a version of a "rain dance" when she's nearly naked.

I'm going to be blunt with saying this - characters of color are NOT an author's personal set pieces to be moved around willy nilly. You can't just throw them into a scene and make stereotypical assumptions/statements and think "Oh hey, I'm being diverse!". Because like the assumption of portraying a Native American with stereotypical feathers and doing some sort of dance in a strip club when that "dance" has significant symbolic value to a tribe (who isn't even really named, it's just following stereotype), you use it in the wrong way. You shame the group, you offend the group, and it's a HORRIBLE way to portray any person or group. Authors, don't do this. Please. When portraying any group of color, think about how you're portraying them. Seriously, please THINK.

Moving on with the story dynamic, Kacey, as the protagonist, overfixates her attention on her love interest Trent, who when her "walls" aren't being broken down just by being in his presence, she spends long passages talking about his physical features - the specks in his eyes, his physical body and "looking him up and down" (when she isn't being looked up and down herself). I'm not saying that physical objectification doesn't exist in other narratives, but it came to a point I wanted to say that the author was doing it TOO much to the point where I just felt ill at ease with it and noted the repetition. Kacey somehow pours all of her trust into being with this guy even when she doesn't know much about him, and shames any woman who comes close to him.

On that note, let's talk about Trent. Or maybe I shouldn't, because when this novel was all said and done, I wanted to say "Screw Trent" with the power of a thousand...somethings. Trent is emotionally manipulative in his own way - I cannot with people who use sexual encounters as emotional leverage to get the other person they love to do things. Kacey is obviously a damaged person. He recognizes this, tells her to get help even when she's resistant against him. Kacey does call him out on the fact of witholding sexual encounters to make her admit things she doesn't want to admit (and yet she does them anyway). Yet he's just as reluctant to talk about his own past (then again Kacey doesn't ask).

When a certain twist in the narrative comes to the forefront that involves his and Kacey's relationship, I thought that could've been used as a conflict of worthiness if it was done right (even if I didn't like some of the implications behind it). Yet, the events after said twist were so creepy and unrealistic that I wanted to throw my computer against the wall. It was manipulative, championing, deceitful and made this one of the worst narratives I've read this year for its subject matter. I do not understand why stalkerish relationships in the NA genre are somehow championed and made to be romantic. This book is especially creepy considering the knowledge Trent has before this point and what he did with those measures, and it's equally unrealistic to think that with the emotional turmoil that Kacey has been through before and after these events (which I would say is so overblown with drama that I felt my head rushing with blood), that everything would turn out to be just fine.

In a line from a Maroon 5 song, and I run the risk of being slightly cheese with saying this: "It's not always rainbows and butterflies, it's compromise that moves us along." That actually could've went along with this particular narrative's thematic, but the story felt so contrived and didn't deal with any of the issues realistically for the exceedingly heavy emotional weights presented here. It was pure melodrama and played right along with the cliche that "love conquers/heals all."

I'm sorry to be the bummer of the party, but that's not true. Not the reality for who suffers from PTSD/depression. It can take a long time for someone like Kacey to heal IRL, and there could've been so many more constructive, fuller ways for her to come to terms with what happened. Hinging her recovery on Trent and who he reveals himself to be after the twist plays into a horrible mentality that Kacey can't heal herself unless it's by loving someone or having someone heal her, rather than healing herself. The twist and the revelations behind that twist didn't make that any better with what she emotionally goes through. I felt sick with some of the apologetic bargaining that Kacey's therapist forced her through. The only time I think I actually felt for Kacey's coming to terms was when her sister Livie pretty much told her to buck up and that she was tired of going through the same things that her older sister put her through. I wanted to hug Livie after that because she was spot on. I just wish that there were more of that actual, genuine resonance in this story than there was.

I cannot recommend this book to anyone, because for a narrative on PTSD/depression, finding love, and showing the developing relationship of two people in difficult circumstances here was VERY mediocre, melodramatic B.S., and perpetuates so many stereotypes in the NA genre that I couldn't even begin to wrap my head around. There are SO MANY novels that deal with this theme better and it's just a matter of looking. This was very weak in comparison, and champions a lot of problematic ideals for the sake of drama.

Overall score: 0.5/5

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Atria.
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Reading Progress

December 7, 2012 – Shelved
April 16, 2013 – Started Reading
April 16, 2013 – Shelved as: arc-or-galley
April 16, 2013 – Shelved as: contemporary
April 16, 2013 – Shelved as: romance
April 16, 2013 – Shelved as: tough-subjects
April 16, 2013 – Shelved as: new-adult
April 16, 2013 – Shelved as: netgalley
April 16, 2013 –
page 13
5.08% "I'm not even 13 pages in this book and already there's a reference to someone making an unwanted sexual advance towards a female character (not the protagonist, but her sister). Ugh.\n \n Article in USA Today about New Adult - from this among other works, you're totally mistaken about sex/sexual themes not being a focus."
April 16, 2013 –
page 21
8.2% "*ahem* Pardon me, because I'm going to have to start singing. \n \n "Ba-da-da-da, I'm an instalove machine, and I won't work for nobody but yo-ou..."\n \n The formula never fails. I figured as much at this point. I've been distracted in the past hour, so I'm picking this back up again. Let's see how far I get."
April 16, 2013 –
page 33
12.89% "I'll admit Mia's cute. Then again, I tend to have a weakness for little kids in fiction. Mia's a five year old who's the child of Mia and Kacey's neighbor. Still reading."
April 16, 2013 –
page 35
13.67% "Am I the only person who thinks that many of these NA authors, when dealing with a difficult protagonist and issues involving sex, could learn a thing or two from Kody Keplinger?"
April 16, 2013 –
page 43
16.8% "I'm having a hard time keeping focus on this book. So, Kacey pretty much ogles over the "hot guy" Trent and makes a comment to him while doing laundry that he washes his sheets a lot. And that somehow, to her, that means he sees a lot of action washing those sheets.\n \n ...Kacey, calm your hormones. The guy can just be doing laundry. Not everything is about sex! Gah! >.<"
April 16, 2013 –
page 47
18.36% "That was a long laundry room scene. Lots of jumpy conclusions and woman shaming on Kacey's part.\n \n On another note, my college laundry room story is better than her college laundry room story. Heh heh heh... ^_^;;;"
April 16, 2013 –
page 58
22.66% "This particular scene proves a point I made on another NA book I reviewed about whenever minority characters are portrayed, they're backhandedly insulted or heavily stereotyped.\n \n Then again, there are a lot of offenses in this. I think I'll stop here for now, because I've been reading this way more slowly than I've wanted to, and I think I need to squeeze in some writing time. Night all."
April 17, 2013 –
page 67
26.17% "So basically Kacey sees a snake coiled around her shower head, Trent swoops in and saves her while she's naked, and then, bam, insta-makeout scene.\n \n This book doesn't make any sense. *headdesks*"
April 17, 2013 –
page 78
30.47% "I think this is the seventh or eighth time (maybe more or less) in my digital copy where I've had to highlight a phrase having to do with Kacey's "walls" being broken down some how by Trent. The whole breaking down personal walls measure can be a powerful thing when used at the right time, but not if it's repeated over and over again."
April 17, 2013 –
page 84
32.81% "Dear Kacey, please stop shaming every woman you see. You are giving Travis Maddox a run for his money with your blatant misogyny and the way you're kicking, twisting, hitting men and women - particularly Ben, who I know is a jerk and probably deserves it, but really? And I'm counting the times you imagined doing so, too. Just...stop what you're doing. Sincerely, Rose."
April 17, 2013 –
page 89
34.77% "Screw this book. Screw this author. You did not just appropriate a Native American woman for use in your strip club and slut shame her while having her do a "rain dance" nearly naked.\n \n I can't even say anything right now."
April 17, 2013 –
page 110
42.97% "If I have to hear a male character say "I have a hard time controlling myself around you" in an NA novel one more time, it will be too soon.\n \n *checks this book* \n \n Yep, too soon."
April 17, 2013 –
page 151
58.98% "I really dislike how this book treats the PTSD on so many levels, with respect to all of the characters involved in knowing. It feels too wooden. I'm still reading, but I have quite a bit to go."
April 17, 2013 –
page 167
65.23% "Seriously Kacey, you didn't even give him a chance to explain. He has a life too. I understand Kacey's hurting, but I can't really identify with her, even through the filter. She's just been an unlikable person from point one and at this point I'm reading on just to see what happens, but I feel like I have to disassociate myself from her perspective at this point."
April 17, 2013 –
page 180
70.31% "Oh. My. Word.\n \n Dude...that twist. THAT TWIST.\n \n If this were a better written book and didn't have such insufferable characters that I couldn't care about them at all, I would've said that was brilliant. But this has been mediocre the whole read through.\n \n Still I do have to applaud that twist."
April 17, 2013 –
page 188
73.44% "Oh my word, this is so creepy. If I didn't want to rage at Trent before, I certainly want to now. That's messed up. Also, melodrama. This could've gone in so many more constructive directions from the twist, but the story chose the worst one to go on. Ugh.\n \n Still reading."
April 17, 2013 –
page 199
77.73% "Kacey's in therapy and she takes the time to not so subtly insult sociopaths. Also, if author K.A. Tucker wants tips on how to write a proper therapist, I would suggest the Ruby Oliver book series by E. Lockhart, because Dr. Z could walk circles around this person. Ugh, Dr. Stayner here isn't written realistically at all."
April 17, 2013 –
page 255
99.61% "Just finished up. *exhales slowly* I'm trying to form words to describe how I think/feel about this book and it's difficult to do so without stepping on toes, but I'll be honest. I see what the book tried to do in the storyline, but if you want my raw reaction to this work: this was one of the most emotionally manipulative books on its respective subject matter I've read this year; I did not like it. Review to come."
April 17, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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message 1: by Angela (new)

Angela Based on your status updates, this one sounds truly painful. Was it better or worse than TRUE, in your opinion?

message 2: by Rose (new) - rated it 1 star

Rose Angela wrote: "Based on your status updates, this one sounds truly painful. Was it better or worse than TRUE, in your opinion?"

Depends. Kacey's pretty much the female version of Travis Maddox in some spectra with her tendency towards violence, blatant sexual shaming of women, emotional manipulation and blatantly beating on men (or expressing desires to do so) among other things, and I really detested her character after a point. The story tried to bring her to terms later in the book, but I think by that point, it was already too late for me to see her in a better light. I think the only redeemable, frequent character in this story was Livie (and she's getting her own story in the next book in this series - I may read that, but if it's anything like this book, I may not bother). I did not like the handling of PTSD/depression in this book, the narrative repetitions, and typical NA genre frameworks. While there was a very good twist near the end that probably would've upped this to two stars for me if it'd been done well, it was so, so contrived following that point. I would say it's worse than "True" because I could see what this book was trying to do and the potential it had to portray its subjects well, but it completely dropped the ball.

Sheyenne Finally the way everyone else was going on about it I thought I was the only one that didn't to much care for it.

message 4: by Rose (new) - rated it 1 star

Rose Sheyenne wrote: "Finally the way everyone else was going on about it I thought I was the only one that didn't to much care for it."

I was surprised by how underwhelming it was on many measures, Sheyenne. I understand what the story was attempting and I think that might play into why some enjoyed it, but I had one too many problems with it and couldn't overlook those issues.

At least I'm in good company. :)

message 5: by Angela (last edited Apr 18, 2013 10:24AM) (new)

Angela Rose wrote: "Angela wrote: "Based on your status updates, this one sounds truly painful. Was it better or worse than TRUE, in your opinion?"

Depends. Kacey's pretty much the female version of Travis Maddox in..."

I've thankfully never read BEAUTIFUL DISASTER so I can't really compare to Travis Maddox, but your description (and your status updates) are enough to make me say no to this. It just sounds like more of the same in regard to NA titles, and I just don't seem to enjoy any of it. I just looked at my GR shelf labelled "new adult" and realized that I haven't liked any NA titles enough to rate any above 2 stars. Though my curiosity will undoubtedly drive me to read more of these, I expect that I won't like any of them. :(

message 6: by Rose (last edited Apr 18, 2013 11:13AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Rose Angela wrote: "Rose wrote: "Angela wrote: "Based on your status updates, this one sounds truly painful. Was it better or worse than TRUE, in your opinion?"

Depends. Kacey's pretty much the female version of Tra..."

All of my NA shelved books are no higher than 1-star. =/ I'm hoping something breaks my streak eventually. I'm holding out on the hope that there may be some works that surprise me, or if they are cliched, at least deal with their subject matter well enough to work and be an enjoyable read.

I haven't enjoyed the ones I've picked up so far though.

message 7: by Angela (new)

Angela I'll keep my fingers crossed for both of us that something will finally come along that piques and holds our interest.

Sascha omg I love your review I completely agree this book is like a bad melodrama

message 9: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Oh interesting. I saw an old ARC of this on the table at work, so I nabbed it because I always try to get our YA/NA ARCs before everybody else. Maybe I'll put it off a little longer. Thanks for the considered thoughts as always.

Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell You deserve a million likes for this review. It's so concise and well-written and I cannot. <3


message 11: by claire (new)

Ten Tiny Breaths truly exceeded my expectations.

message 12: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Thanks for your review, I will wait a bit longer before picking this one up. TRUE was mentioned in the comments above, I was wonder who that book is by.

message 13: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Thanks for your review, I will wait a bit longer before picking this one up. TRUE was mentioned in the comments above, I was wonder who that book is by.

message 14: by Rose (new) - rated it 1 star

Rose True is by Erin McCarthy if you're interested, Jessica. And thanks for your comment! :)

message 15: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Thanks for letting me know! I was just curious since I'd never heard of it before.

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