Thursday, March 29, 2012
Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Learning to live is more than just choosing not to die, as sixteen-year-old Ryan discovers in the year following his suicide attempt. Despite his mother’s anxious hovering and the rumors at school, he’s trying to forget the darkness from which he has escaped. But it doesn’t help that he’s still hiding guilty secrets, or that he longs for a girl who may not return his feelings. Then he befriends Nicki, who is using psychics to seek contact with her dead father. This unlikely friendship thaws Ryan to the point where he can face the worst in himself. He and Nicki confide in one another the things they never thought they’d tell anyone—but their confessions are trickier than they seem, and the fallout tests the bounds of friendship and forgiveness.
Many of my favorite stories are ones that feature small casts, and thus I was immediately drawn to Try Not to Breathe and its primary focus on Ryan and Nicki. Because of the emphasis on the pair, plus the inclusion of a handful of influential other characters, I actually quite like this one.
The beauty of the developing relationship between Ryan and Nicki is that pretty much every level of their friendship is shown in the book, allowing it to be as realistic as possible. Their first encounters are kind of awkward, as expected, but as they spend more time together, it's easy to see why they grow so close. Both are so open to each other in their desire for true friendship and help with their problems that the bond they form is always easily noticeable even when they go through their especially rough patches. These rough patches are what make the book so great-- not only do they enhance the emotional intensity, but they also give the pair something to work through. Because they don't always know what to do, their mistakes and unpredictable success are even more poignant.
What also makes the book emotional are the other characters-- particularly Ryan's friends from the hospital, Val and Jake. The people at home are obviously a bit on edge around Ryan in hopes that they won't hurt him, which makes his interactions with them all the more tense and therefore compelling. However, many of these interactions are limited until nearer the end, which saddened me because there was so much Ryan had to fix with people. Similarly, I was saddened that Val and Jake didn't appear more than they already did. I did enjoy that Ryan was moving on instead of dwelling on the past, but his friendships with those two were so strong because of their history that I wish it was discussed more in detail to see the full effect it had on Ryan.
I personally would have preferred more from the intriguing minor characters, but I'm more than happy with what was given to me in Try Not to Breathe-- it's emotional, realistic, and features many delightfully complex relationships.
Book details: Viking Juvenile/Hardcover/$16.99
Source: sent by publisher for review