Title: Reason to Breathe
Author: Rebecca Donovan
Series: Breathing #1
Publication Date: 5-9-11
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Dark
Source: Bought (ebook)
In the affluent town of Weslyn, Connecticut, where most people worry about what to be seen in and who to be seen with, Emma Thomas would rather not be seen at all. She’s more concerned with feigning perfection—pulling down her sleeves to conceal the bruises, not wanting anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is. Without expecting it, she finds love. It challenges her to recognize her own worth―at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she’s desperate to hide.
Oh my god. Wow. Wow wow wow. BAM. That was an ending. I need to get the second book in this series in my hands likerightfreakingnow. I actually didn’t realize it was a series going into this book, but I’m so glad it is after that ending, haha.
Reason to Breathe was so good. Amazing. It’s a very dark, gritty novel about a high school junior named Emma who lives with her Aunt and Uncle because her father died and her mother was unfit to care for her. Emma goes through life trying to be invisible. All she cares about is maintaining her perfect grade point average, performing her best in the three sports she plays, and not getting noticed by anyone. She just has to survive the next two years, and then she can move away to college on a soccer scholarship and live happily ever after.
But Evan changes all that the second he steps into her Journalism class. Oh, Evan. I am not the type to do this…but I was SWOONING for this boy. Oh my gosh. An attractive, intelligent athlete who can’t keep that adorable smirk from escaping on his lips? Oh, man. He’s the one. I wasn’t ready for him…and neither was Emma. Emma was just about overwhelmed with one friend in her life — the patient and popular friend Sara who is always there with a shoulder to cry on — but how can she juggle Evan, too?
Rebecca Donovan completely captivated me with this story. At first, I was hesitant. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be into reading about the problems that were wrong with Emma’s family. But Emma was so endearing and relatable. She was just trying to do everything she could to survive high school. I also really respected her. She had a lot of tough situations to deal with throughout this novel, and she handled almost all of them with extreme grace. I’m sure that I’m not as good of a person as Emma is.
I loved being brought along on the ride as Emma transformed from the meek invisible girl into this beautiful woman who is strong and knows what she wants out of life. And it was all Evan who brought it out of her. He seemed aggravating and over-confidant at first, but really he was just trying to break Emma out of her shell. And he did.
This book was very well-written and I loved how Donovan tackled the challenging issues. One problem I did have with this book is that I wish I could’ve understood Emma’s Aunt Carol’s character more. She wasn’t a very nice person, but I don’t like it when people are written as being 100% “evil.” Why couldn’t there have been more ambiguity surrounding her? Why was she mean to Emma? How has she become the way she is? I didn’t want to like Carol, but I wanted to be able to at least somewhat understand her.
I also thought that, at times, the book dragged. It seemed to go on forever at some points. I was interested throughout, but it just felt like some things could’ve been cut out (like maybe the whole section with Drew?) or shortened to speed up the pace of the novel. The book lasted almost an entire school year and I felt like we witnessed every single week of the whole thing. I also expected things to develop between Emma and Evan much faster than they did. It was a relief not to be dealing with insta-love, and I enjoyed the slow build up of their attraction and love for one another, but at times it felt like it was a bit too much.
Ultimately, I did really really like this book, though, and would absolutely recommend it to any fan of darker, more mature YA (I don’t believe this belongs in the NA category). And I can’t wait to pick up the next book in the series!