Out of all the novels on abuse that I’ve read, I think Breath to Breath was the worst. Worst in the sense that it gave the most unembellished and gritty view of what it is like to have survived an abusive childhood.
William seems to be your average misunderstood teenage boy; he’s got a passion for exercising and constantly finds himself in unwanted trouble. After getting into a brutal fight that puts two teens in the hospital, Will has two options. He can either face juvie or return to his hometown and live with his estranged father. Choosing the latter, Will meets and becomes close with the graceful Swedish beauty Shasten whose spiritual guidance helps to resurface dark memories. He also makes friends with the insightful and very nerdy Ollie who is uncompromising when it comes to loyalty. Once Will realizes that a little boy in his hometown might be a victim of sexual abuse, he’s hell-bent on saving the boy from his environment. What unravels throughout this 432 page novel is something I can’t imagine happening to anyone, let alone a four year old.
After reaching halfway into this story, I was convinced that the blurb was wrong and that the story is really about a troubled teen who gets a chance to start over. Then, I read past page 57 and couldn’t stop reading. Sexual abuse is such a sensitive topic but Craig Lew seems to find the most unique and gut-wrenching way to tell Will’s story. I’ve only read a few books written in verse and they were just average but Breath to Breath goes beyond your usual verse novel. The voice of the narrator is never lost throughout the story and, even though fewer words are used, the description of people, places and events are clear as ever.
What I really like about Breath to Breath is that it’s real on so many levels. Other than the fact that the story is actually inspired by a true story, the characters in the novel aren’t your average adolescents. There are some stereotypes like Lettermen, cheerleaders and nerds but the book never shifts focus from its intended message. Then there are unique characters like Shasten. Shasten is Swedish and into “spiritual massages” where she helps clients to clear their bodies of negative energy through massages and focus on peaceful thoughts. Still, Ollie has to be my favourite character by far. He’s always frank and straightforward and it comes in handy when Will finds himself in deeper trouble. Characters like Ollie are usually the underdogs of most stories but Breath to Breath ensures that Ollie’s character remained relevant, especially through the climax of the story. Besides the main characters, I think the character that resonated with me the most was Will’s dad. Even though, I’m just as angry as Will about his father being absent when he needed him the most, Will’s dad has gone through his own trauma. After learning about the story behind why Will’s dad is the way he is, I started to feel like I was reading an episode of American Horror Story.
In all, Breath to Breath is a great book if you have the heart to read about abuse, need encouragement on getting pass a difficult time in your life or if you want to understand what happens to survivors of profound sexual abuse.
Learn more about the author:
Craig Lew’s storytelling career began even before he had learned to write. As a child, he used his father’s tape recorder to capture tales about strange planets and scary creatures. His favorite story openings at that time were, “Once upon a junk yard heap …” or “It was a dark and stormy night.” A movie producer, director, award winning author, illustrator, and screenwriter, Craig still favors a Hitchcockian thriller over a broad teen comedy. Regardless of the genre, he believes the best stories involve a hero who is either seeking love or giving love. At heart he’s a big, mushy romantic. Craig spends his days with his fiancé in a house on a hill with the corgi land seals Yobo and Zeekie, a three-footed Boston Terrier named Moogie, and Smittens, the kitten with the marshmallow mittens.
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Length: 432 pages
Source: ARC Copy
Publisher: Relish Media (November 17, 2015)
Genre: YA Fiction
Completed: November 2015