Emma leaves Weslyn and everyone in it behind to attend Stanford University, just as she always intended. A shell of her former self, she is not the same girl. She is broken, and the only way that she’ll be whole again is through forgiveness. Emma must find a way to forgive herself and recognize her own worth before she can receive the love she deserves. This final installment will have readers holding their breath until the very last page.
A funny thing happened last year. I was going through a reading surge. I’d read two or three books a week in the search for something that gave me ‘more’. More as in not the usual or expected. I wanted something that challenged me and made me think. Pieces that leave me reflecting on my own life and taking inspection on my thoughts and attitudes were on my wish list. That’s when I found Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan. That book left me wanting more, not just because of the cliff hanger but also because of the story line. It’s not usual to read a book about a young woman who is being abused. Most independent authors wouldn’t touch that storyline with a ten foot pole because it’s not what people want when they read for entertainment. Somehow Donovan made it work. While the abuse was a theme in the book, the main theme was how individuals who suffer through abuse survive. What mechanisms do they use to get to the next day? The second book, Barely Breathing, was no different.
Like many others who were waiting impatiently for the final installment of The Breathing Series to be released, I was ecstatic to receive the book. I would finally be able to find out what happened to Emma, Evan, and the whole gang from Weslyn. What I didn’t expect to find was hope. In Out of Breath, Emma has become self destructive. She’s becoming all of the people who have hurt her in the past. She’s abusing her body and herself. It’s so easy for her to do because this is what she has been taught. How can she believe in love and forgiveness when the words of the ghosts of her past reverberate through her mind?
“You’ve worn guilt like an iron mask, welded to you, because you’re convinced that you’re to blame for what happens to everyone else. You martyr yourself for things you’re not responsible for. And you end up hurting the people you care about because you push them away, believing you’re protecting them.”
I really don’t want to spoil any portion of the book for you since I’d like you to get the same amount of enjoyment and surprises that I received while reading it. Just know that just about all of the characters from the series make an appearance in Out of Breath. A few are more welcome than others. I believe the re emergence of these characters are pivotal to the development of Emma. Fighting her demons and fellowshipping with her angels is what is going to help her rise to be a better person.
“I’ve always loved that tree, I thought to myself as I watched her run her fingers around the trunk. Her eyes lifted to take it all in. She had always connected with that tree too, making it the perfect location for the swing I’d made for her.
The swing that I’d hope would keep her coming back here. Back to me.”
Rebecca Donovan has done something special with this series and more importantly within the covers of Out of Breath. She has taken the emotions and mindset of someone who is without hope and exposed them. She has put into words what some people can only feel. Donovan has translated emotions that are usually only demonstrated by destructive behavior by those who have experienced trauma and dark pasts and put them into language that can be reproduced. I think this will be the hardest part for some readers who just cannot relate to the darkness that Emma feels. It may be hard for them to understand true despair and emptiness. For those who have experienced it or have loved ones who have, it can be seen as a relief and cathartic to be able to say, “Exactly! How did she know this?”
Most importantly, Donovan brings hope to those who struggle. As shown in Emma’s story, coming to grips with you past is never easy. Just having the strength to have a voice about what matters is a difficult task. Forming the words to express your emotions or to admit your own wrongdoings is a powerful step towards redemption. My favorite quote from the novel is below. Anyone’s name can be put there instead of Emma’s as this story could have been a depiction of their life too.
“Hold on to this life, Emma. You’re so much stronger than you think you are.”
Although some parts are easy to follow, if you’ve not read the first two books in the series (Reason to Breathe and Barely Breathing) you will not understand the actions by the characters. I highly recommend reading each of the books in order.
Note: I was given an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review.