In Romance YA, Young Adult

Nothing makes me shriek more than sitting down with a good book only to have it turn out to be a complete editing nightmare. Thank you self-publishing. As much as I am in favor of giving writers an outlet for their craft and not confining them to the unrealistic expectations of the big publishing houses, I am also not opposed to an editing requirement. Some are very, very long and others, for lack of a better term, are crap. I tried to get past it, I really did, but it ended up poorly and cost me money, so I gave up taking chances on indie books. But because of a consuming need to never miss something amazing, that diamond in the rough, I decided to give it another try (especially since mine might fall into the self-published vortex one day) and as it turns out, many of them are great! However, to keep the unreadable out, I first scour the worldwide web for reviews on the top performers.

Beautiful Disaster was wild and Gabriels’s Inferno was dark, intelligent and sexy, but nothing moved me to write a review like the young adult romance-ish trilogy titled The Breathing Series. This not yet completed series by Rebecca Donovan was absolutely riveting, well edited (besides some spacing issues) and thoroughly developed. Her voice is so strong, the subject matter is challenging to read at times, but her writing isn’t heavy handed. I found myself drawn into the engaging storyline while falling in love with the male protagonist Evan. I will not give you a detailed synopsis, because I never do, but I intend to give you as honest a depiction of what really resonated.

First, a little cautioning: This book is based around severe physical and emotional abuse and is often times difficult to read even though the abused girl is sixteen. So if you don’t like darker themes, this probably isn’t for you.

Emma Thomas is an abuse survivor and a teenager, two mixes that occur often in stories, but never with much precision. She has hidden from life in order to protect her young cousins, but with the help of some amazing people who support her unconditionally, she fights her way out from the depths of hell to make a very accomplished life for herself. The first in the series, Reason to Breathe, takes us on Emma’s ugly and beautiful journey. Her skewed life perception caused by years of torment is real, honest, and completely relatable. Although you may not have personally experienced the severity of abuse the author Rebecca Donovan depicts, you can understand Emma’s struggle to be a teenager in love when it feels like the whole world is against you. Her love interest Evan is deep, intelligent and a night in shining armor. Even when the chips are down, he remains a constant.

The book weaves through Emmas tangled web without any forgiveness, but by doing this Emma’s voice remains sincere. She is an overachiever who receives no mercy, is teased by students who resent her perfection, abused by her aunt who can’t stand the sight of her and is loved by a best friend who never judges her. She is also a virgin. (Of course) But, it is dealt with maturely and realistically. Thank you Rebecca.

Donovan doesn’t give you a traditional happy ending, but the world is dark so any light is welcomed. At least that was my perception of her choice. Apparently, many readers were so infuriated with how Reason to Breathe ended that they actually wrote Donovan, but I thought it was befitting of Emma’s tragic and frantic world. Thankfully, the second book was available immediately so I wasn’t left hanging for too long.

In book two (Barely Breathing) I was annoyed by the love triangle (but in hindsight it worked), along with Emma’s repeated deceptions and the many unreasonable choices made along the way, but she is a teenager dealing with situations most won’t experience in a lifetime thus I was able to overlook her irrational decisions. The theme in this one is rage and addiction (the abuse cycle returns) and as angry as I got with Emma for getting into another abusive situation, it only accentuated the depth of her suffering by bringing into focus some deep seeded internal struggles that she will undoubtedly address before any forward movement can be made (Yay for book three).

So, if you want to read the same old love story where a virtuous teenager sacrifices her virginity for the sake of her social status, please choose something else, but If you want to read about courage, hope, relationships that aren’t perfect, growth and unrequited love please, please purchase The Breathing Series.

Sara O'Connor
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