I’m not a fast reader, I take my time reading books, not like years or anything like that, but 2 or 3 weeks maximum unless I’m caught up with stuff in my life that prevent me from reading. I was reading “Warm Bodies” but stopped because I felt like re-reading “The Hunger Games”, and once I finished the first book my friend Petrina (who is a photographer check out her work here) literally BEGGED me to read this book titled “Reason To Breathe” and after 2 days of asking me to read it she ended up buying me the book, so with the book already available on my Kindle app, I decided to give it a try and see why this book left her so amazed.
“Reason To Breathe” is the story about a sophomore girl named Emily but people call her Emma, who lives with her aunt Carol and uncle George after her dad passed away and her mother was unable to take care of her. Carol and George have two children, Jack and Layla , and decide to take Emma in their home, however, Carol literally despises Emma’s presence and abuses of her in every chance she has whether it is hitting her or make “accidents” that happen inside the house, Carol does everything in her will to make Emma’s life miserable without the kids or even George noticing. Carol is evil, and when I say it I mean it, she treats Emma in a such a violent way, calling her names, etc that at times while reading the book all I wanted was to see her and punch her in the face because Emma wouldn’t stand up for herself and confront her. On the other hand, Emma can’t really speak about what happens in her home to anyone because she fears that they will take Carol away from the kids and she doesn’t want to be responsible for ruining their childhood, and for someone like her whose childhood was so traumatic, she opts to stay quiet and just survive until she graduates high school and can go on her own to college. Emma doesn’t have a social life because Carol is so strict, even controlling her school and after school schedule, and it doesn’t end there, Emma had a job over the summer and all the money she made Carol regulates how much she gets out of it as well as her deceased father’s social security money. To me, living with Carol would be something close to living under a dictator’s regime.
Emma is a girl who basically puts all of her energy in school, in a way trying to avoid the hell that she has to go through at home, she pushes herself to the limit trying to get the best grades and excel in sports as well, all so she can land a college scholarship and is able to leave the house. Being someone so determined to pretty much try to survive everyday, Emma is very shy and rarely talks to people, fearing that they will ask her about her family or ask her to hang out after school knowing that Carol will punish her just by asking. The only friend that Carol will let her have is Sarah, who is somewhat of a popular girl in school and the only person according to Emma that she can really talk to, Sarah is like the cheerful best friend that will always try to find a way to make Emma happy, but even then Emma has never told Sarah about what happens behind closed doors. Emma lives her life trying to survive each day up until graduation, that is until someone by the name of Evan Mathews enters the school and makes Emma’s world turn upside down.
All along, even though Emma knew she was missing out on the whole high school experience, she liked living this way, where no one would even bother to hang out with her, where her personality would be so cold that no one even dared to talk to her, that is until Evan Mathews noticed the girl that kept to herself and found her interesting, and deep inside he wanted to know why she was so secretive. Evan Mathews is a sweetheart, he brings out a part of Emma that she didn’t even know she had, he makes her happy but even then she wouldn’t allow herself to be happy living with the constant fear of Carol finding out about him even though they are just friends.
As the book progresses, we see the friendship between Emma and Evan develop, getting to know more about both characters and see what Emma has to endure every day at home, trying to keep up with her friends, school and sports. Rebecca Donovan, the author of the book, doesn’t sugarcoat the insults or abuse inflicted on Emma, it’s as graphic as possible to let the reader know that this isn’t just a slap on the hand, it’s massive physical and psychological trauma that people have to go through, that at times even had me tearing up and shaking my head in disbelief because there are actually people going through stuff like this today. I got really into the book and read it in two nights, it is a page-turner for sure, because it kept me intrigued enough to find out if Emma will talk about it or not. Along the pages of the book, I really got the chance to understand Emma’s choice of being quiet because by speaking she would put too much stuff on risk, she didn’t want Jake and Layla to live like orphans just like she was.
However, by the end of the book I was just shocked. It took me a while to actually come to terms with the ending where I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, scream or just find a way to contact Rebecca Donovan and ask her if the way I perceived the ending was right. Yes, like many movies, this book has an open ending that’s open to interpretation BUT there is a sequel. I am beyond intrigued to see what happens next because “Reason To Breathe” is an emotional rollercoaster that stops at the last drop and leaves you wanting to go on the ride again.
I can’t thank Petrina enough for recommending me the book because it opened a door for me to a topic that I don’t see featured much in Young Adult novels like domestic abuse, and it shows that even in the darkest of times there is always hope and overall there are many, many reasons for us to breathe.