Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Series: Breathing #1

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

Release Date: May 2011

Format: Trade Paperback

Source: Purchased

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon


Synopsis

"No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?"

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.

Reason to Breathe is an electrifying page turner from start to finish, a unique tale of life-changing love, unspeakable cruelty, and one girl’s fragile grasp of hope.

My Thoughts

I'll start by saying that Reason to Breathe was not what I was expecting. And I'm sure I allowed that to somewhat color my feelings for the book. For some reason I had been convinced for years (ever since I first bought a copy and placed it on my bookshelf where it sat for at least two years) that this was a new adult book. So I was geared up for plenty of grown-up relationships and drama. However, Reason to Breathe is decidedly young adult and instead provided plenty of high school relationships and drama. Not a bad thing but, like I said, I was totally expecting something else and I spent the entire book trying to adjust.

Sixteen year old Emma lives a life of secrets. With her mother unable to care for her, she lives with her aunt and uncle. Instead of a stable home life, away from the chaos of life with her alcoholic mother, she endures constant verbal and physical abuse from her aunt who resents her very presence. Emma refuses to report the abuse for fear that her young cousins would suffer the consequences and lose a mother who, to them, is loving and caring.

I survived by keeping my emotions in check - by maintaining my composure and tucking it all away. - Emma
Then the handsome and persistent Evan enters her life and suddenly Emma is willing to risk the delicate balance she maintains in order to experience the headiness of a new relationship. Evan was a sweetheart and it felt completely realistic that Emma would be willing to risk so much for a chance at some normalcy and excitement. Her friend Sara, initially the only one who knew the secret of Emma's home life and having been sworn to secrecy, was a good friend and did what she could to help Emma. However, there did come a point where I wished Sara would ignore Emma's demands and just tell someone. As the abuse at home escalated, and Emma remained resolute to keep the peace and just bide her time until she could leave, I was desperate for her situation to change by any means necessary.
My world was delicately balanced, but the scales never hung even. When something improved, something else had to crumble. Accepting this would be the hardest thing I'd ever had to learn, and even when I came to know it as true, it still crushed me. - Emma
My issue with Reason to Breathe is that often it seemed the relationship drama took center stage over the very serious abuse happening behind closed doors at home. I loved that Emma was getting a small taste of freedom, spending time with Evan, going to parties with her friends - but chapter after chapter would go by with her home life being glossed over and all the focus on time spent with Evan, jealousies over other girls, and other drama that seemed petty in comparison to what Emma was dealing with at home. This may be a by-product of my initial thoughts that this was a new adult novel and so the high-drama of the high school set felt more pronounced, but it's something I noticed again and again.

I enjoyed Emma as a character and admired her strength and self-sacrifice (even though she took the self-sacrifice to dangerous lengths). And Evan was such a wonderful addition to Emma's life. Once he started to suspect/know what was happening to Emma he was desperate to protect her. This wasn't a case of knight-in-shining-armor or boy-saves-the-day but just a boyfriend horribly worried about his girlfriend and feeling helpless to make her safe. There was a definite push and pull to their relationship. Emma was determined to keep Evan at arm’s length in order to keep her home life a secret, but at the same time she was craving the closeness and the genuine care and love that Evan had for her.

"I love that picture," he admitted softly. "I think it's because I love the girl in that picture." - Evan
I grew frustrated with Emma when things ended with Evan and she started seeing Drew. She felt the need to break up with Evan because she could not afford to have anyone close to her and learn her secret. So why didn't the same hold true for Drew? It made no sense and had me wanting to throttle Emma for being so capricious. Thankfully Evan was as patient as he was sweet and loving. 
"I don’t know how to fit you into my world without hurting you too.” The truth in my words revealed more than he’d ever know.
“Don’t worry about hurting me,” he said calmly. “I like being a part of your world, and I understand that it’s more complicated than you’re willing to share with me. But I’ll respect that for now.”
And then that ending, oh my goodness. I was so hopeful… and then that cliffhanger. I definitely want to pick up the second book in this trilogy soon and learn what becomes of Emma. It helps that Donovan’s writing flows so easily and pulls you into the story from the beginning. She has a way of eliciting an emotional response without falling into mawkishness. And I’m sure there’s plenty more emotion to come as the series continues. I can only hope there’s a happy ending at the finish.
3.75/5 Stars 
Have your expectations of a book ever changed how you felt about it? 



17 comments:

  1. I read this a LONG time ago now and know I really enjoyed it. I did know it was YA at the time though. I liked the whole series (I think??) Glad you enjoyed it despite your issues with it! Great review!

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    1. Thanks Grace. I really did enjoy it although (based on some other comments) maybe I didn't express that very well. LOL I'm looking forward to reading the other two books.

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  2. It's hard when you pick up a book with certain expectations and then realize it's something completely different. That can make it hard to connect with the book.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. That was exactly my issue, Nicole. And I feel bad that maybe I was a little more critical of the book than I would have been otherwise. But now that I know, I can move on and enjoy the rest of the series even more. :)

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  3. Ugh, it sounds like this was NO FUN for you at all, T! :( Isn't it such a disappointment when that happens? It sounds like there's also this nasty love triangle going on (which I hate) But I'm happy that it sounds like you at least enjoyed this world a little bit since you're continuing on with the rest of the series. <3

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    1. It wasn't all bad! Actually it wasn't bad at all... it just wasn't what I thought it was going to be. But now that I know, I can really enjoy the other two books in the trilogy. :)

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  4. Oh, my expectations absolutely can color my feelings/reactions to a book, Tanya. I just finished a book that was billed as romantic comedy so I was expecting to, you know, laugh. But I found the humor to be lacking and even though the story was pretty good, I held it against the book that it wasn't funnier. As for Reason to Breathe...I read this back in 2012 and I felt it was very powerful. Of course, I knew what I was getting going in, so... I understand your issues with it though. I'm glad you'll continue with the series. I read the final book just last year, I think? And I liked how Donovan wrapped things up - and it does end up being more NA.

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    1. So you just recently experience the same thing. And if a book is billed as a rom-com, yeah, I'm definitely expecting to laugh. LOL I think I'd be holding that against the book, too. In this case it was really my fault for thinking it was NA. I don't know where I got that from but I kind of shot my own self in the foot with that mistake. Luckily now that I know what it is I can enjoy the other two books even more.

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  5. I HATE when i already made assumptions about a book going into it and then find out it's not what i expected, because it ends up being a let down or like you said, hard to adjust when you start reading it. I find it a little odd too that the book seemed to focus more on her relationship problems than the stuff at home. I'm not sure I would be too thrilled with that aspect of it, because I would think any teen (or adult) would have a hard time focusing on their relationship and school if they had something that serious taking place at home. Whether it was YA or not I think the author could have done a better job of balancing the focus in the book between these two aspects of it. Then again, I haven't read it yet, but I can see where your frustrations are!
    Great and honest review Tanya!
    Emily @ www.rabbitholereviews.com

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    1. Exactly! It's hard to adjust your thinking after you've already decided certain things about a book... even after you start it and realize you were mistaken. I feel sorry for the book now because I didn't give it a fair shot. :) But now I can go into the next two books with more realistic expectations and enjoy those even more.

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  6. Great review! I read this a few years ago and remember liking it but I can totally see how you would be thrown off by thinking it was going to be NA! I just remember how awful her aunt was and that when I tried to read book 2 in this series, it was DNF for me.

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    1. Oh no, sorry to hear the next book was a DNF for you, Eva. I'm hoping now that I know that this is a YA series and I know what to expect that I'll connect with the next two books better and enjoy them even more.

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  7. OH NOOO- it totally sucks when that happens! I've ended up not liking books for this reason too, and really, I don't blame you at all. I feel that we might be able to just about deal with a book if it was NA when we expected a YA, but the disappointment is a bit too much when it's the other way round, don't you think? Great review anyway, Tanya! At least the writing was good so you didn't have to struggle to finish it!

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    1. I think you are so right, Ruzaika. Somehow expecting a YA and finding it was NA wouldn't throw me so much. But being ready for a NA and then finding it's YA was more jarring. At least now I know what to expect and hopefully I'll enjoy the next two books in the series even more. :)

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  8. Totally thought this was NA too. #oops I just remember all the hype surrounding it a few years ago. And I did grab it for cheap on Kindle...
    Evan sounds dreamy. But I totally get your frustrations. It's hard to watch a teen make the wrong decision over and over again. It's like there's no in between between selfishness and selfish. It's one or the other so much of the time. Why can't people just do what's right for them? Because abuse is totally affecting everyone in that house even if she thinks it's not. Anyhow, hopefully I'll get to this one day. Great review!

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    1. Thank you! I'm not alone in assuming this was NA. Vindication! lol Maybe from a 16 year old'f perspective I can try to understand Emma's reasoning. But as an adult it's easier to see what's happening, how wrong it is for all involved, and want to force *someone* to report it. Evan is a total sweetheart. He cares for Emma so much and it kills him to know even a fraction of what she's going through. And I love a guy who can be up front with his feelings.

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