Happy Thursday, Reading Nook readers!
Today, I'm reviewing Breathe, Annie, Breathe. I love Miranda, but I've been kind of mixed on Miranda's writing recently. So I was a little hesitant going into this story.
However, I ended up enjoying Breathe, Annie, Breathe quite a bit. Miranda has written an interesting and unique tale of coping with guilt and finding redemption in an unlikely place.
Hardcover, 306 pages
Expected publication: July 15th 2014 by Sourcebooks Fire
Format read: ARC via publisher
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.
So when I heard about Breathe, Annie, Breathe, it immediately became one of my most sought-after books of the summer. Fortunately for me, I was able to receive an ARC of the book at ALA - thank you, Sourcebooks! - and quickly devoured it the second I got home.
Things that worked:
While she may be outwardly pretty, Annie is internally broken. Since learning about her boyfriend's untimely death, Annie has struggled with getting through each day, while also trying to train for marathon running in her boyfriend's memory.
Miranda brilliantly captures Annie's ever-present grief through every stage of recovery and the training. Even though Annie recognizes that she has to move on from her grief and begin the rest of her life, it doesn't mean that there aren't moments when she does lose her temper over the situation, and does feel guilty that she's attracted to Jeremiah.
Though readers may not be able to identify specifically with Annie's type of loss, Kenneally has structured Annie's character growth throughout the book in a way where I have no doubt that readers will be inspired by how Annie chooses to deal with the situation at hand.
From the very first page to the very last, it's clear that Miranda is writing about the challenges of marathon training from personal experience.
Readers will likely enjoy Miranda's thoroughness in incorporating these details into Annie's world - e.g. facts about runners relying on Jolly Ranchers while running, to how a person can compensate for their build, while working out.
I enjoyed this not only because it was interesting learning about a sport I normally never take part it - sorry, I'm a swimmer, all the way! - it was also interesting to see how Miranda emphasizes the idea that people turn to the discipline and structure of something like marathon training, to move past any number of tough situations.
(And how occasionally, people will use that sort of adrenaline to get into more dangerous activities - *cough, cough* Jeremiah.)
One of the best parts about Miranda's books, is her repeated emphasis on the importance of friends and family. This remains true in Breathe, Annie, Breathe, where Annie is supported by a strong group of friends and family as she pursues her training goals.
Even though she doesn't always get along with them - Annie's occasionally tempestuous relationship with her mom, strongly reminded me of my own relationship with my mother - there's no doubt that they care about her and want her to succeed.
I especially loved seeing Annie's relationship with her friends as she goes off to college, and her admiration and developing understanding of how other families - e.g. Jeremiah's - love and support each other.
Without giving any spoilers away, I definitely think that this is my favorite ending of Miranda's yet. It fits the tone of the book perfectly.
Things that didn't work (for me)/Things to consider:
While I definitely found Jeremiah to be charming and lovable, I also felt like Miranda never fully developed his character beyond surface traits. I was told a series of facts - e.g. he's sporty; he's a bit of a thrill seeker - but I never got to know him beyond what he clearly felt for Annie, beginning to end.
I had the same characterization issues with Racing Savannah's Jack, so I'm kind of thinking I just may not jive with Miranda's current male characters.
The lack of discussion re: safe sex
While I'm definitely not a prude by any means, I was a little disappointed that none of the characters take the opportunity to discuss safe sex throughout the course of the book.
*Slight spoiler ahead*
Even though several of the characters - Annie, included - engage in sexual relationships at one point or another, none of them actually reflect on what it means to have that type of relationship with a significant other. I think incorporating that discussion could have added a certain degree of poignancy to her reminisces of Kyle, and her burgeoning interest in Jeremiah.
This is also a personal preference on my part though, and I absolutely respect Miranda's artistic decisions.
Readers will undoubtedly be moved by Annie's transition from someone who is literally outrunning her own guilt, into someone who begins to run toward a different future and become invested in life again. The relationship that she also develops along the way with Jeremiah and her fellow runners, will remind readers that there will always be others in the world who do understand who you are and what you've been through.
All in all, this is a great addition to the Hundred Oaks world. It fits seamlessly into the rich tapestry of characters that Miranda has already created in Jordan, Parker, Savannah and the like, but also stands out on its own for its strength and quiet conviction.
I strongly recommend this book for fans of YA contemporary fiction, but also for readers who are looking for an extremely moving tale about personal strength and recovery.
About the author:
Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.