Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan Review

Sunday, September 06, 2015


It's been quite a while since I've uploaded a detailed and in-depth book review on my blog, which I was sad about as I really enjoy writing these posts and they seem to be received well by my audience. Today, I will be reviewing Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan, which is a book that I wanted to read for quite some time and finally got around to this summer. It has an excellent storyline and some very deep and important themes, so I thought it would be a great one to share with you.

I came across this book while looking for something to read in the library. I'd noticed it sitting on the shelf, untouched, many times before but it was only a few months ago when I decided to pick it up. After reading the blurb, I could tell that it was going to be an emotional read and something that I would enjoy, so I decided to try it. I'm honestly glad that I did, as this book deeply affected me and really opened my eyes, leaving me touched by the beautiful but upsetting story.

"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 while 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 - but at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she’s desperate to hide."

Emma might appear to be an average school student, being smart and talented while remaining lowkey and undiscovered, but that's only a mask, hiding who she truly is. She gets outstanding grades, maintaining a 4.0 in her advanced classes, is one of the most valued athletes in her school and does any chores without complaint. She has the potential to be one of the most popular students in her school, yet chooses to remain a recluse, going unnoticed by most of her peers. This is due to her dark secret, where it is physically unsafe for anyone too know the truth about. Emma doesn't want help or a rescue plan, and is instead bravely coping with everything around her until she can finally escape her horrible life.

That is until she meets Evan Mathews, a new pupil in her school who seems to have taken a bizarre interest in Emma's complexity and quietness. She is instantly drawn to him, but knows that letting her guard down could lead to the truth being revealed, with everything she's worked for being lost. Emma is faced with the opportunity to get what she wants - an ordinary, teenage life with supportive friends and happy memories - but her safety and future would be at risk. Reason to Breathe shares the emotional and heart wrenching story of a girl holding onto her final piece of hope and her struggles to make it through the unbearable pain brought upon her.

The main characters in this book were extremely detailed and fleshed out, making them feel realistic. This really helped the story come alive and I could often predict how certain characters would react to events, based on their personalities and flaws. Emma's character is one that is written with both a sense of vulnerability and bravery, showing her true terror at brutal times and a more mellow yet still on-edge version of her in relaxed times. The main antagonist, Carol, is an incredibly well-written character that made the story so emotional and memorable. Rebecca Donovan did an excellent job at makng her very terrifying and a constant looming threat in both Emma's mind and the reader's.

I was, however, disappointed by some of the secondary characters in the novel, as they seemed to lack realism and would do anything that helped to advance the plot. An example of this is Sarah's parents, who would stretch to great extremes to allow Emma to frequently stay over at their house and even go to New York with their family, which are things that regular parents wouldn't allow, and certainly Carol wouldn't have allowed it, but this was brushed upon since it helped the plot continue. I also wish that some of these lesser characters would've had more development and had noticeable traits and characteristics.

The events of this book weren't about a drasitc plot point, but rather a series of events. I really liked this, as we were able to see how the characters shaped and grew as people over time, but it did leave me unmotivated at certain points, as it seemed like it was just a constant timeline of unnecessary events in parts of the novel. However, I do feel that this way of writing helped us to understand how much Emma was suffering and shown that there wasn't one clear plot point that affected her, as each time Carol hurt Emma was as bad as the preceeding. 

I was amazed by how eager I was to read this book and how I couldn't put it down, especially after about halway through. I read the first half of this book on and off over a few weeks, but on holiday managed to read the second half in less than 24 hours. I was completely engrossed in the story and couldn't stop thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. The storyline and flowing feel to the writing really helped me to enjoy the book that much more and kept me reading it for hours on end.

Although I fell in love with this book, there was a few inconsistencies and unrealistic elements which I couldn't help but be slightly irritated by. One thing that this book really lacked was a steady concept of time, as I felt that weeks or even months passing were brushed over in a couple of sentences, leaving me confused. Also, some of the events felt a bit unrealistic, such as the trip to New York to look at colleges with Evan coincidentally being there, which was actually unrelated to the plot and wasn't really necessary to the storyline.

Rebecca Donovan's writing style is one that I quickly fell in love with, which is part of the reason why I was eager to keep reading. The book itself wasn't challenging or difficult to read, but I feel like this helped me connect with the characters and appreciate the events even more. Her narrative voice has such a casual feel to it that makes this book seem more relatable and reinforces the idea of Emma being a regular teenager at heart. Rebecca also pays great attention to detail, which is evident through discrete clues and foreshadowing that clearly sets up the story.

This book has quite a deep and upsetting concept, but I still found it to be a very progressive and enjoyable read. I feel like every emotion possible was touched on, with sadness and fear playing a major role, but being counteracted by the happiness and joy that was underlying in the events. Although the scenes aren't overly graphic, they can be hard to read and make you feel pain deep inside. There are definitely some powerful messages included in this book and moments that make you stop and think.

Overall, this was a great book that I found to be an intense and addictive read. It's more suited to older teenagers, as it's quite a mature and upsetting read while still featuring some fun and youthful elements, but I feel like adults of all ages would appreciate and connect with it aswell. It was a really unique story that was conveyed excellently and has left me eager to read the sequel.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Hopefully I've convinced you to try this book, and if you do I'd love to know what you think of it. I'll definitely be back with more book reviews in the future, but make sure to tell me if you have any particular requests, as I'd be more than happy to write about them for you.

Love from Daisy x

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