Thursday, October 17, 2013

Barely Breathing (The Breathing Series #2) by Rebecca Donovan


"I've spent most of my life trying to make it to a future that still hasn't happened, or avoid a past that won't let me go. I don't remember when I've ever just stopped to live in the present, to hold on to the seconds I'm in."

Emma Thomas’s struggle with an abusive home life came to a heart-pounding conclusion in the final chapters of Reason to Breathe, the first installment of The Breathing Series— Rebecca Donovan’s bestselling romantic-thriller (USA Today). Now her secret life has been exposed, and her tormentor can’t hurt her anymore. Yet some are still haunted by that night. The bruises may have faded, but scars and fears, remain. How will she reclaim her life when she's barely breathing?


**SPOILER Warning** While I try my hardest not to include spoilers in my reviews, this is the second book in the series & it would be hard to discuss this book without referencing events from the first book.  If you are new to The Breathing Series, then you might not want to read further. two down & I'm still not sure what I think of this series.  Barely Breathing takes place a few months after Reason to Breathe.  Carol has gone to prison & Emma has moved in with Sara & her family.  However, in a not fully explained to my satisfaction whim, Emma decides to move in with her estranged mother.  Their relationship has never been good due to the fact that Rachel was an alcoholic.  In the past few months, Rachel has made a bit of an effort to get to know Emma & has sworn that she is sober.  So, Emma decides to move in with her in order to try to reconnect before she leaves for college.

What I discovered in this book is that Emma really is the perfect victim.  She has been trained to be accommodating at all costs...especially if she thinks that the cost is only to her.  She lies to those she loves to cover for the ones who use and abuse her, and puts herself in situations where she is easily taken advantage of.  I found it really hard to root for her in this book as I watched her make the same mistakes time & time again.

Where the overall story was as compelling as the first one was, I had a harder time connecting with any of the characters.  In Reason to Breathe, my heart really went out to Emma because she was in circumstances beyond her control & really felt that the choices she made (as misguided as they may have been) were for the best for her cousins.  I'm not sure what is her driving force in Barely Breathing.  Hurt by Emma choosing to leave her & move in with Rachel, Sara is distant throughout large sections of the book and when we do see her, she is usually in full on party girl mode, and while Emma is dealing with her not-so-sober mother, Evan is off on skiing weekends in Tahoe or Hawaiian vacations with his brother making him not only absent but also unrealistic (at least in the world I live in!).  Then we meet Jonathan, the compelling yet forbidden new man in Emma's life and the story takes several expected as well as unexpected twists & turns.

While this isn't an overly positive review, I have to say that Rebecca Donovan's writing style is enticing.  She draws you into Emma's world of confusion and pain & somehow makes you want to stay there.  It is quite possible that a lot of the negative feelings I walk away from these books with are because they are not happy, feel good stories...and they definitely don't end well!  In my opinion, cliffhangers are evil, manipulative, yet effective tools.  I didn't feel good after finishing either book, but not reading the next one wasn't even an option.  After reading Reason to Breathe and Barely Breathing back to back (with a tiny break to devour Colleen Hoover's fantastic novella Finding Cinderella!), I took a few days away from the angst to read a more light-hearted/fun book, but now, I'm ready to dive into Out of Breath and hope that Emma is finally able to save herself...from herself!

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