Sunday, 9 June 2013

Review: Rebecca Donovan's "Reason to Breathe."

I read “Reason to Breathe” last year and it well and truly broke my heart.  This story covered so many different subject matters, some of which gave me faith in human nature but others which left me completely devastated. Rebecca Donovan didn’t pull any punches with the story of Emma Thomas and rightfully so.“Reason to Breathe” will fill your heart with pride but will leave you shattered in the same breath but you won’t want to put this book down. With the imminent release of the third and final part of the story, I decided to re-read the first two books and review them. Here's my review for book #1:
In a town where people worry about what to be seen in and which social circles to mix in, Emma Thomas would prefer to go unnoticed. Her aim is to keep her head down, get the best grades possible and earn herself a scholarship to college.... her one way ticket out of the hell she calls home.

I needed to create the ideal transcript for a scholarship admission. It was the only thing I
had control over, and it was honestly more of a survival plan than an escape plan.

After her father’s tragic death, Emma’s mother turned to alcohol. No longer able to cope with a child, Emma was sent to live with her relatives. From the moment she was put into their care (aged seven), she has suffered unimaginable cruelty at the hands of her aunt (Carol) with her uncle (George) choosing to turn a blind eye. But Emma isn’t after pity and she doesn’t want saving. She has a plan. Survive the next six hundred and seventy three days and leave her miserable life behind.
What Emma isn’t counting on is being noticed by one of the hottest guys at school. Evan Mathews has his sights set on Emma and he'll do anything and everything to have her in his life (including trying to keep it plutonic (at her request obviously!!! Lol). As much she tries to fight it, Emma’s drawn to Evan and the more time they spend together, the closer they become. He shows her a side to life she never thought possible and for the first time in a long time, she’s truly happy.

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 have
to learn, and even when I came to know it as true, it still crushed me.

But her happiness is short lived. What lengths will Emma go to and what will she risk in order to protect the one secret that holds the key to her future. This story is about growing up, it’s about friendship, it’s about love but most importantly it’s about hope.

This book's a page turner and I read well into the night to get it finished. Rebecca Donovan wrote such a touching yet very realistic story in "Reason to Breathe" and it held me captive until the very last page. Emma’s character got me from the outset but not through pity. I accepted that this wasn’t what she wanted and despite not agreeing with some of her decisions, I supported her because that’s all you can do. Emma was strong in mind and determined in nature. Once she had made a decision, no one could change it. That was until Evan entered her life:

No one ever tried to get involved with me, I kept myself 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?

I loved seeing this new side to Emma. She was happier, she was experiencing things girls of her age should experience and my heart just danced for her. I was well and truly championing their relationship, hoping they would become more than just friends. I could sense the fear and the hesitation in Emma but once she jumped onto that ride, it was like a drug, she just didn’t want to get off:

The repercussions of getting caught sent a wave of nausea through me,
but the thrill of getting away with it convinced me that it was worth it.

However, every time she pushed the boundaries, every time she took another risk I worried because there was a possibility that I would have to read something that would leave me shattered for her. I just kept thinking about  the possible repercussions and everything she had to lose. I was so torn for her. On one hand I wanted her to embrace this new life, on the other I wanted to lock her away until she got her scholarship!!!!
And Evan, that guy never gave up, persistent till the end he would always be there for her:

“Don’t worry about hurting me,” he replied calmly. “I like being part of your world,
and I understand that it’s more complicated than your willing to
share with me. I’ll respect that.... for now.”

Evan was smart and funny  but he was also a loyal and understanding friend. Even when times were hard, he tried to help. When Emma was hurting,  he was desperate  to take the pain away. I loved that he tore down her walls and finally got her living the life she deserved.

Sara was Emma’s best friend and they had been through thick and thin together. She was the one person Emma trusted with her life:

She was admired by most, envied by many, and could discreetly seduce a guy with a grin.
What mattered most to me was that I trusted her with my life- which was saying a lot,
considering the unpredictability that awaited me at home each night.

Sara, much like Evan was loyal but there were moments where I could sense the frustration and anger in her. She couldn’t bear to see the harm Carol was inflicting and was desperate for Emma to seek help. Unfortunately Emma dug her heels in and Sara had to respect her decision. Despite being one of the most popular girls at school, Sara was down to earth. She didn’t care much for the opinion of others and despite being poles apart, she wasn’t afraid to hang out with the quiet girl no one else bothered with. And I loved the “Operation: Free Em” part of the book... everyone should have a best friend like Sara.

Reason to Breathe left me feeling broken. It tore my heart to pieces leaving is shredded at my feet. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy putting it back together because this book stayed with me for days. Every time I thought about it, thought about a particular line or a certain situation, the lump in my throat would reappear and the silent tears would flow. Rebecca Donovan took a sensitive subject matter most would shy away from and wrote about it in such an honest and realistic way and for that I thank her. There were moments where I struggled to continue reading, where the images I had in my head scared the hell out of me but I had to keep going.

I went through every kind of emotion imaginable reading Emma’s story but please don’t think that these were all negative. Yes there were moments of anger, frustration and heart break but there were also moments where I laughed, where I smiled a big wide grin and where my heart did a little happy dance for the characters. This book is definitely an eye opener and it’s thought provoking. The ending left me crushed and desperate for the sequel, lucky us, book two “Barely Breathing” is out and Book Three “Out of Breath” is due out in July.

I rated this book 5 Hearts. Go read it. You won't be disappointed.

Reading Order and Amazon purchase links for Rebecca Donovan's "Breathing Series:"

Book #1: Reason to Breathe

Book #2: Barely Breathing:

Book #3: Out of Breath:

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