Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Release date: May 19th 2015
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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My rating: 2 out of 5 starsPenelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.
Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.
And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.
All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.
Hold Me Like a Breath sounded like such an intriguing read. The title and the cover are gorgeous, and an organ transplant black market is such a unique and fascinating take on the crime family story. But sadly, I didn't end up loving Hold Me Like a Breath as much I was hoping I would - it was a pretty slow and frustrating read for me.
I did love the organ-transplant element of the novel. It's interesting how the whole business is illegal, but the Family sees themselves as doing something morally right by providing transplants for people the government doesn't deem 'worthy' because of disabilities, etc. But of course, only people with money have access to this, considering how obscenely rich Penny's family is as a result of this business. Different members of the Family have different opinions on the proposed laws that would legalize selling one's organs and how that would affect the Family's business, which was especially interesting within the context of other illegal businesses that are being legalized... It's a complex issue, and Hold Me Like a Breath treats it as such making this a very thought-provoking element of the story. The whole thing didn't even read like contemporary at times; with these made-up laws and a world I know nothing about, Hold Me Like a Breath felt kind of like a sci-fi novel, and I really loved its fascinatingly unique worldbuilding.
But even though I loved this setup, the rest of the story didn't really work for me. I had some issues with our main character Penny. I loved reading about the details of her autoimmune disorder and how that affects her day-to-day life, but that's about the only unique thing about this character. Penny is ridiculously naive, and I understand that that makes sense, considering her sheltered upbringing, but she also acts like a whiny, spoiled brat for most of the novel. I usually hate when people base their opinion on a book on whether or not they liked the main character, but Penny was just so annoying and frustrating to read about that I could not get myself to care about the outcome of her story. She does undergo a transformation over the course of the novel and learns to fight for herself, but I was just too annoyed at that point to really notice. She still acts pretty naive, trusting and helpless even when she's living by herself, and her failure to do anything other than wait around for someone to save her for 90% of the novel frustrated me to no end.
There's two elements to this story: the thriller side, meaning Penny trying to hide and then protect herself and others from the mysterious bad guys; and the emotional side of Penny processing the tragedy that struck her Family. The thriller element in the beginning is pretty weak, considering that nothing really happens for the first three-quarters of the novel; Penny doesn't do anything, she just sits around waiting for something to happen. And at the end, when we do get more action, it just got kind of unrealistic for me - there are so many elements to this thriller that don't make sense. I can't really go into this without spoiling this, but I'll just say that none of the characters really had any motivations that would justify their actions, and there's some serious plotholes in how Penny got to where she is now. As for the emotional side, the writing and the characters just weren't strong enough to make me feel anything.
And then there's the romance, which, of course, had to include a love triangle and some insta-love. At first I liked Garrett, the childhood friend Penny has been in love with forever, but I didn't get too strong of a connection between him and Penny, and once Char shows up, Penny just kind of forgets about him. The relationship with Char was too insta-love-y for me - they're both suddenly obsessed with each other, and Penny isn't creeped out when Char follows her and stakes out outside the apartment where she's hiding. Again, I didn't feel a real connection; for that whole part of the novel, nothing much really happens. When Penny has to choose between Garrett and Char, the resolution is made way too easy, and she doesn't even consider the other side for reasons that didn't make sense to me.
Hold Me Like a Breath was worth the read only because of the original ideas of the organ-transplant black market and the autoimmune disorder; this was an interesting world to gain insights to. But the execution left much to be desired: with a frustrating main character, a predictable thriller storyline with significant plotholes, a weak emotional element and a predictable romance, none of it really worked for me. I might pick up another book by Tiffany Schmidt because I did enjoy her debut, Send Me a Sign, but I'm not going to be continuing with this series.