Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.
Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can’t protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.
And in her family’s line of work, no one can be safe forever.
All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking…and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.
Penelope is a teenage girl living a very abnormal life. She lives on a large, well-protected estate with her parents and her brother Carter, where a constant stream of Family members—people who participate in the illegal business of organ selling and transplants—come and go. However, Penny doesn’t get to be very involved in the business because she has idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a blood disease that causes her to bruise easily and bleed without clotting quickly. She’s stuck feeling lonely, isolated, and out of touch. When her family is attacked, “fragile” Penelope is forced to start a new journey looking for the culprits while staying alive.
Considering how complicated it is to explain the black market organ business and to have a main character with such a complex and finicky disease, I thought Tiffany Schmidt did a very good job tackling those topics. ITP on its own provides a lot of challenges, and Schmidt obviously did her research.
As a result of her disease, Penny has been shielded from much of the organ transplant business transactions and day-to-day pieces of her Family business. This can be frustrating for the reader, but because of how sheltered her parents have kept her, it makes sense. But just as a warning: you don’t necessarily see a ton of the black market behind-the-scenes stuff. What Penny does know about the organ transplant business has been worked in and provides helpful background for events that occur later in the book. However, the focus is much more on Penny and her journey, not the Family business.
After the attack, Penelope is forced to be on her own for the first time in her life. She’s up against the other prominent crime families and even her own body is fighting against her. Anyone, even the people she’s grown to trust, could be the enemy, and that keeps you on your toes. Penny ends up in New York City where she runs into–literally–the love interest, Charlie. I really liked that he gives Penny a chance to be a normal teenage girl for a little while, because she’s never gotten that before and it’s the one thing she really wants. However, the relationship and love between them happens so quickly it felt unbelievable. I think I would have felt better about it if they hadn’t been declaring their love but rather agreeing to see where the relationship went.
Despite that, Hold Me Like a Breath kept me intrigued the whole time. I didn’t see the ending coming, and Schmidt had me guessing through all 400 pages. Hold Me Like a Breath is full of action, suspense, and mystery and tells the story of a girl trying to find her place in the world. I’m looking forward to seeing what the sequel, Break Me Like a Promise, holds.