Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Breathless by Jessica Warman

Title: Breathless
Author: Jessica Warman
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Release date: April 18th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought at The Book Depository
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
When Katie Kitrell is shipped off to boarding school, it doesn't take her long to become part of the It Crowd. She's smart, she's cute, and she's a swimming prodigy. What her new friends, roommate, and boyfriend don't know is that Katie has kept a secret about her past—that her schizophrenic older brother, Will, is quickly descending deeper into insanity. As her lie constantly threatens to reveal itself, it's all Katie can do to keep her head above water.

First sentence:
There's a man feeding the koi in our fishpond because my parents don't want to do it themselves.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

First off, I love this cover! I don't know what it is about them, but I love pictures taken under water - they're creepy and beautiful at the same time. However, I was somewhat disappointed by the actual book.

What carries Breathless, in my opinion, is the writing. Jessica Warman's prose is beautiful, lush; insightful without being melodramatic.

The rest of the novel, however, did not live up to the writing. I didn't really like the characters. While I felt for Katie during her time at home and her problems with her family, she really annoyed me when she's at boarding school. The way she treats other people at school doesn't fit to the way she acts at home. I was annoyed by how conceited she is, thinking she'll get into Yale for sure and always saying she's the fastest swimmer. I also disliked how much Katie smoked and drank without those topics ever really being addressed.

While I liked that the author gave all of the secondary characters unique personalities, I didn't really get their relationships with Katie. I didn't get why Estella, the most popular girl at school, would befriend Katie when she doesn't even get along that well with her most of the time. Drew's relationship with Katie is boring, but I can't really criticize that, since that's the way it's supposed to be. Mazzie is probably my favorite character. She's complex and dynamic, and I like that she had her own problems but was still there for Katie. How close the two are, though, is accentuated a little too much to be realistic.

I'm split on what to say about the family-storyline. It was interesting for me to read about Will's schizophrenia and his episodes seem realistic, but I don't know anything about that kind of thing so I can't really judge that. One thing I do know is that the descriptions of Will are scary, and that makes them seem real. I also liked how the family dynamics and Katie's relationship with her parents changes over the course of the novel. What I didn't like, though, is the explanation for Will's mental illness. Katie repeatedly says that it's their town's fault for making him ill, and that the entire town hated them because they're rich. That, to me, doesn't make sense - they're living in a poor town where people hate them, and they have money, so why wouldn't they move away? I also would have liked to read more about the time between Will's episodes, which the reader doesn't get to see because Katie's at boarding school. That made it hard for me to understand the developments in Will's schizophrenia.

I did not like the ending at all. Maybe it's a personal preference, but I have a problem with  epilogues taking place ten years after the rest of the story. I can't really explain why, but they're almost always corny, and that's the case in Breathless, too. I really would have preferred the resolution to take place right after the rest of the story.

I know, I said almost only negative things in this review, but I still think Breathless is a pretty good read. Despite the issues I had with this novel, the descriptions of Will's mental illness and the family dynamics are great, the writing is beautiul and the characters are fully-developed. I didn't really like the characters, so if you need to connect to the main character to really enjoy the book, like I do, maybe this one isn't for you, but if the topic interests you, it's worth a read.


  1. Thanks for your review on this. I agree about the cover. It's both cool and creepy. :)

  2. nice job with sharing what you didn't like AND why. you still hit the good points of the read as well, so nice job!

  3. Lovely cover, true. Since you say the writing is good, I'll most probably read this book. Great review :)


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