Thursday 24 January 2013

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Review: Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Reason to Breathe by Rebecca DonovanReason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan (review copy) - A passionate love. A brutal betrayal. Unwavering hope.

In a town 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. Emma doesn't want anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is.

When Emma unexpectedly finds love, it challenges her to recognize her own worth - but at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she's desperate to hide.
From Amazon UK

When I first heard about Reason to Breathe, I was excited by wary. Excited to read another NA book, but wary about the abuse within it's pages. I've not read a book about physical abuse before (not a spoiler, you're aware of this from the very beginning), and I worried it would be difficult to read. Now I've read it, I'm not completely sure what I think of it.

Because her father is dead and her mother couldn't cope, Emma lives with her aunt and uncle. At school, she does extremely well, but tries her best to go under the radar. She can't afford to let people get too close, in case they find out what home life is really like. The only exception is Sara, her best and only friend, who sees through Emma's excuses for the bruises and the pain. For Carol, Emma's aunt, can't stand the sight of her, and constantly reminds Emma of this - physically as well as verbally. But then along comes Evan, who notices Emma when hardly anyone else does. The attraction between the two of them cannot be denied, but Emma can't let him in. Evan is persistant, though, and won't give up. Can Emma manage to be with him, and keep him at arm's length so her secrets stay hidden?

Let's start with the positives. Reason to Breathe is a page-turner. With Carol, you never know when she's going to strike or what she's going to do next, and as Emma starts to slowly prod rather than push at the boundaries set by her aunt and uncle, you're in constant fear for her. You're turning the pages as fast as you can to see what happens, yet worry about what the next page might bring; what new bruises? What broken bones? You can't help but loathe Carol, this disgusting, evil woman who is nice as pie around everyone else, yet switches when she's alone with Emma. There is nothing she won't resort to.

However, there are a few things that bugged me too. Emma is completely clueless when it comes to guys. Fine, she's spent the past four years trying not to be noticed, so hasn't had any proper interaction with the opposite sex, but Sara is her best friend, one of the most popular girls in school, who is constantly on the receiving end of male attention. I do not understand how she could be around that for four years, and not know when someone likes her. She spends a great deal of the book confused by the words and actions of various guys in the book, and it was just so frustrating! It wasn't so much that I was frustrated with her for being so clueless, it was more like I couldn't believe in Emma's character properly as I just don't feel being that clueless is true to life. Sometimes she acted more like she was 12 than 16, she was just so young and naive - like being extremely shocked and embarrassed when asked by Sara if she had kissed a certain guy, like it was such a scandalous thing to ask. It just made the story so much hard to believe, and caused me to struggle with it. I try not to use this word in my reviews, but there's no other way to say it; after a while, I found her behaviour and reactions started to bore me - even when things should have been getting more interesting between her and Evan.

This meant that I struggled to pick the book up to read. I know I said above that Reason to Breathe is a page-turner, and so it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, so let me clarify; the book was a page-turner when I was reading it, but when I wasn't, I struggled to find the motivation to pick it up. And what didn't help is the fact that Reason to Breathe is 524 pages long. I don't have anything against really long books, but when a book is that long, and you're struggling, it can take a while. I'm the kind of person who has to finish a book if I start it, it's a rule that I was brought up with, and so I struggled on, but it took me about two weeks to read. That's a long time. And, in my opinion, Reason to Breathe could have been 200 pages shorter. I didn't see any real need for the book to be this long. There were events in the book that didn't seem all that important, and, in my opinion, could have been removed. So yes, you're turning the pages waiting to see what's going to happen next, and sometimes you would be waiting a few chapters for anything major to happen.

There are other issues I have with the book, but their more to do with choices and decisions made by some of the characters, more of a disagreement with them than a problem with the book, and I can't really discuss them without spoiling the story. Yet, the thing is, I don't hate the book. I don't completely dislike it. It's more frustration and indifference. Reason to Breathe ended on a massive cliffhanger, and although part of me really wants to know what happens next, because woah (!), I'm not too sure whether I could read another book like this one. I think I'll read some reviews of the second book, Barely Breathing, which will be published on 28th February, before deciding. If the series gets any better, maybe I'll check it out, but if not, I might give it a miss. Also, I'm not entirely sure why Reason to Breathe is marketed as New Adult; Emma is 16 and still in high school. Perhaps because physical abuse is considered a mature theme, but the book felt like YA to me.

Please read more reviews of this Reason to Breathe before deciding not to read it; other people have enjoyed it more than I did. Check out some of the reviews below.

Thank you to Penguin for sending me a review copy.

Add to Goodreads

Published: 17th January 2013
Publisher: Penguin
Buy on Amazon US
Rebecca Donovan's Website

Other reviews:
New Adult Addiction
Maryse's Book Blog
Livin' Life Through Books


  1. Having just written my review of this book, I can finally read yours!

    The whole thing with Emma and her cluelessness around guys made me roll my eyes quite a bit during this book as well. And you are completely write about it being unnecessarily long-winded. It definitely needed a stricter edit, but I figured that was down to the book being originally being self-published.

    1. Yeah, I thought that too, the fact that it was self-published being why it was so long; publishers probably couldn't really edit when faithful readers may be buying traditionally published book to support Donovan and expect the book they've already read. But it took me so long. And, god, her cluelessness! Beyond irritating! Always confused! I've read some reviews of the second book and it sounds like it might be better, but I'm not going to feel bad about putting it down if I'm not getting on with it. Don't need to do it again.

      Just checked your blog to see your review hasn't been posted yet. Looking forward to reading it once it has been. :)