Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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 bound of friendship and forgiveness.
It was dangerous to stand under the waterfall, but some kids did it anyway, and I was one of them. The water pounded my mind blankc, stung my skin. It hit my naked back, chest, and shoulders so hard I couldn't think. That water could knock me over, pound me into hypothermia, force the breath out of me, pin me to the rock, and I knew it.
This paragraph had me literally from page one. The opening paragraph (above) pulled me right in to the story and held tight throughout. I felt a strong connection with the characters and their stories that kept me engaged the entire time I was reading. The characters in Ms. Hubbard's sophomore novel were easy to relate to and their well-established personalities completely drew me into the story. I found it easy to imagine them as a part of my life. The story itself, for me, was truly secondary to getting to know the characters and watching them develop.
Because sometimes "living your life" was the whole problem.
Ryan, I think, is a character that would be hard not to like and sympathize with. He is truly struggling to re-establish his own life after attempting to commit suicide and ending up hospitalized for depression. He seems to walk a fine line between incredibly fragile and remarkably strong. I got the sense that he wants to regain some semblance of normalcy in his life but he has a very "outsider" mentality that keeps him from really re-connecting. From the beginning, Ryan also really intrigued me. There was an air of mystery surrounding his character, and I really liked the way that Ms. Hubbard slowly revealed his past throughout the novel.
Nicki was Ryan's perfect counterpart. She has a tough "f* the world" kind of exterior that hides the much more fragile girl inside. She comes across as super confident when we first meet her but she's slowly revealed to have some major insecurities and faults. I genuinely liked getting to know her throughout and she seemed like the person Ryan needed in that moment. Their romance isn't forced or overly fast-paced but it progresses at a quick enough pace as to demonstrate the longing that I think they both felt to be with/accepted/loved by someone else.
Try Not to Breathe brings a refreshing male voice to a predominantly female driven YA contemporary market. The subject of suicide and depression is one that spans both sexes and it was refreshing as a reader to hear from a male point of view. However, I think that the topic and the writing style lends itself to being read and enjoyed by girls and boys. The narration isn't overly masculine and it has a very gender neutral feeling to it. The one thing I will say is that the cover doesn't necessarily lend itself to a male audience. It's hard to imagine a boy checking it out from the library (and my husband agrees).
If you enjoy books such as If I Stay and Thirteen Reasons Why, I think that this will be a must read for you for 2012. It's a beautifully written look at the after-effects of attempted suicide--the struggle to return to a "normal" life, to find acceptance, and to move on.