About the book
Reason to Breathe is the first book in the Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan and it is a new adult novel. The book was published by Penguin on 17th January and it is 544 pages long.
All Emma Thomas wants is to be invisible. Unlike everyone else at her school, she only has one friend and doesn’t want any more. Emma buries herself in her school work, extracurricular activities and sports. It takes enough effort to hide the terrors she faces at home without having people asking a million questions about her.
New guy in school, Evan, is about to change all of that. He’s the first person in a long time to show any kind of attention towards Emma and she has no idea how to react to him – short of pushing him away and telling him she doesn’t want to know. However, she cannot keep herself to herself forever and as romance builds, she finds herself becoming more and more invisible every day, which is a prospect that terrifies her.
What I thought
This one has been sitting on my to be read pile for quite some time. University work had taken over my life and I just didn’t have time to read my own books. Once that had died down though, this was near enough at the top of the pile.
Protagonist Emma has a terrible family life, something that we learn about very early on in this book. Her one and only friend Sara knows some of what happens at home but Emma never lets her in on the complete truth. Living with her aunt and uncle, Emma does not have the most stable of lives. Her aunt is an evil bitch who physically abuses her and makes her life a misery. Reason to Breathe is very hard hitting from the beginning, as Emma’s secrets are revealed to the reader. Emma appears to just be the girl at school who wants to do well, the over achiever, but really she doesn’t want people to see what a complete mess her life is.
I haven’t read many books about violence and physical abuse and I found this one to be absolutely shocking. Rebecca Donovan does not shy away from the scenes where this is happening to Emma and instead, shows the horror of it completely. Certain scenes made me feel very uncomfortable and quite sick at times due to what was happening. Although this was shocking, it really made me realise just how bad Emma’s life was. I don’t think I would have understood as well without being shown in graphic detail. However, although her aunt is doing all kinds of horrible things to her, Emma never says anything to anyone. She tells Sara everything is ok and it’s not as bad as it seems, typical qualities for someone in Emma’s position I would say. While this I could understand, when some really bad things happen, Emma is too quick to say she is fine. She doesn’t want her little cousins being taken away from their family and this is what I couldn’t get my head around. If your aunt is beating the crap out of you, would you want two small children being around that environment with the possibility of it ever happening to them?
Although I had problems with the way Emma acted and reacted sometimes, I did like her as a character. I could understand the way she lived her life, with the sole purpose of getting through high school and away from her aunt. I do think she was a little too quick to push everyone away but I could also understand why she did it. It was nice to see Emma eventually come out of her shell though and little by little, she became a new character altogether. I also really loved her friendship with Sara. Although her only friend, Sara was someone that Emma could trust and someone who she had fun with – something very much needed in her life. I loved reading about the times where Sara and Emma were together because it made the book more light-hearted at times.
Love interest Evan was someone I absolutely loved. As the new guy in school, Emma hasn’t even noticed him until he speaks up in a class. From that moment, he doesn’t leave Emma alone – not in a weird, stalker way though. He likes Emma and he likes her outspoken, no bullshit attitude. The relationship between these two characters is a strange one because of Emma’s situation. She tells him from the beginning that she cannot and does not do relationships or friends but he keeps trying anyway. I liked that there were no games between these two and each of them were really upfront about what they wanted with each other. I was glad to see Emma finally begin to let Evan in though as I did begin to feel a bit sorry for him.
The two aspects of romance and abuse are interwoven wonderfully and are connected the whole way throughout the novel. Reason to Breathe is about Emma really becoming herself and dealing with the life she has at home, while trying to make things better for herself. This book is absolutely heart-breaking at times but there is so much beauty within some of the other relationships. The ending was completely shocking and not at all what I was expecting. I can’t wait to read the second book, Barely Breathing, to find out what happens next.