Title: Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5)
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: July 15th 2014
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: BEA 2014
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My rating: 4 out of 5 starsAnnie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.
But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.
Before I start swooning about how amazing this book is, I need to go on a quick rant about the design's inconsistency with the rest of the series. There's the title that sticks out, but that didn't bother me too much because Things I Can't Forget already ruined the "Something-ing Main Character" title thing. But... the cover. I love the green of all the previous Hundred Oaks books; why does this one have to be blue? Yes, it's a really pretty cover, and it's a million times better than the original one, but still... why, Sourcebooks, why?? And I'm so glad I got an ARC of this because (asides from the obvious reason) it's coming out in hardcover, when all the previous books are paperbacks. Just... nothing matches the rest of the series. Don't you know I need my books to match, Sourcebooks!?
Okay. Anyways. The actual book, of course, is amazing. It's a bit darker than the previous ones in the series, considering a lot of it deals with Annie grieving the death of her boyfriend. But that darkness is perfectly balanced with hope and romance, providing a really great set-up for a strong, character-driven story. I love how respectfully Miranda Kenneally managed to balance writing such a steamy romance while still honoring Kyle's memory. I think this might actually be my new favorite book in the series - all of the Hundred Oaks books are about relationships overcoming obstacles, but the obstacles in Breathe, Annie, Breathe felt the most real, making me love Annie and Jeremiah together even more.
Annie's voice is what makes this book so great. I absolutely loved her, identified with her, and sympathized with her. Generally, characters with commitment issues frustrate me because, in the world of romance stories, I cannot understand why you can't get over it and be with this person who is obviously perfect for you. But in Annie's case, I totally understood - her conflicted feelings of guilt for betraying Kyle and longing for Jeremiah are so well done, and I felt for her and understood her at every point in the novel. Annie is now one my favorite Hundred Oaks girls. Jeremiah is a great character, too. I personally wouldn't love him in real life - his chivalry and protectiveness would bring out the angry feminist in me, and I wouldn't be able to see past the benevolent sexism - but I could definitely see how he's perfect for Annie. He is a very complex character (more complex than most of the previous Hundred Oaks boys - not that I didn't love them, too), and I loved reading about his issues and how they affect Annie and Jeremiah's relationship, too.
Even though I am pretty much the opposite of athletic, I loved getting insights into the world of running in Breathe, Annie, Breathe. I loved how sports played into the previous stories in the Hundred Oaks series, but if I'm completely honest, the actual sports parts kind of bored me because I just can't get myself to care about football or baseball. Marathon running, though, was a fascinating world to explore. I would consider myself a pre-running Annie - the girl who came in last when they made us run a mile in high school PE - so it was really inspiring to see how she, despite this, managed to run a marathon, with so much hard work and training. It was fascinating to see both the highs and the lows, and how much effort and commitment really goes into this kind of thing.
As always, I also loved the cameos. I have a horrible memory, so I have to admit it took me a while to realize that Annie's trainer/Jermemiah's brother Matt is the same Matt from Things I Can't Forget. But not even my horrible memory can forget about Jordan Woods and Sam Henry, the characters that first made me love Miranda Kenneally's writing, so it was great to see them again in Breathe, Annie, Breathe. (Even if it was really weird to see Jordan be called Coach Woods all the time.) And getting to see Savannah again was great, too!
Also, college! Breathe, Annie Breathe, begins at the very end of senior and spans the summer, but the last third or so of the novel is set at college. YA books set at college pretty much automatically make me happy, just because there are so few of them.
I think that sums up everything I loved about Breathe, Annie Breathe, even though I'm probably forgetting about something - so many things to love! It's no secret I love Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oaks series - all of them are exceptionally well-done romances - so to say this one might be my new favorite is a big deal. If you haven't read any of these books, I really don't know what you're doing with your life. Go read them right now!!