Breathing, book three
Emma leaves Weslyn and everyone in it behind to attend Stanford University, just as she always intended. A shell of her former self, she is not the same girl. She is broken, and the only way that she’ll be whole again is through forgiveness. Emma must find a way to forgive herself and recognize her own worth before she can receive the love she deserves. This final installment will have readers holding their breath until the very last page.
MY RATING: 5 STARS
Wow. This was hardly I expected, but I’m not in a mood to complain. I didn’t have to wait forever to read this, like other fans of the series, and I came in wanting only one thing: a happy ending. Everything else took a backseat. I’ve read some snarky reviews, and I can see where those people are coming from (for starters, Rebecca Donovan still hasn’t amazed me with certain aspects of writerly prowess and I doubt she ever will), but all of that is minor compared to the things that won me over. Out of Breath was definitely the best of the series.
The storytelling was murky in the opening chapters and I felt flung into an entirely different world with no warning, but I saw enough to know I was in for a ride. Emma’s slant towards self-destruction scared the hell out of me, because I had come to care so much about her and it hurt to see how lost she was. That slant seems to be one of the biggest complaints about this book, but it felt realistic to me. After everything Emma has already gone through, I would expect her to take a downward spiral like this. Evan’s reappearance in her life when she was so determined to save him from herself gave me hope at first, then I went into a tailspin again when she continued to push him away. Safe to say that became a standard pattern for this book; everything seemed like it was on solid ground, and then there would come another earthquake. Emma would make progress towards healing at last, then she would shatter all over again. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally, by the time I finished reading.
It’s worth repeating that this series does NOT skimp on heart, and especially not this installment. This one, possibly more than the others, was honest. It’s the greatest struggle to not only survive abuse, but to live with the damage every single day afterward, and Ms. Donovan didn’t hold back with just how much of a struggle it is. It affects everything and everyone, and the strength, love and courage it takes to come back from are, to be frank, miraculous. This was a fight not just for a girl’s life, but for her soul. That’s the plain and simple truth of it.
All right, I did have some nitpicks apart from a murky start. I floundered through the beginning, trying to adjust to the two-year gap between books two and three and learning who was who in California. There was never any introduction of the new characters, they were just plopped in like we should already know who they are. The whole Jonathan thing had me up and down. I like that he wasn’t completely dropped, as he played an important part in Emma’s decision to run off from Weslyn, but I wish he had been more…there. The plotline was handled logically, but that’s all I can say for it. I just felt like something was missing, especially by the end of the book. The increased use of language and sex in comparison to the rest of the series felt out of place, and had it been like that from the beginning, I wouldn’t have any complaints, but to bring it in at the last minute felt jarring. And while I LOVED reading from Evan’s perspective, Ms. Donovan didn’t handle the transitions well at all. Alternating POV is one of my favorites, but there’s a trick to pulling it off, and she hasn’t mastered it yet.
All of that was only stuff I couldn’t help but notice as I went along. I read this with all thoughts of reviewing it playing second fiddle to my need to see once and for all what would happen to Emma. I was focused on the soul of the book, and in that I was no way disappointed. This was without a doubt one of the most moving, emotional books I’ve read this year, and a brilliant end to a series that blew my mind from the beginning. You know when you find a book that has such a powerful impact on you that you have to share it with someone, because someone else has to know how amazing it is? This ranks as one of those, and I know I’ll be coming back to it over and over.
As a postscript, I’ll share some of my favorite quotes.
Hold onto this life, Emma. You’re so much stronger than you think you are.
And I knew. I didn’t know how to give up.
This may not have been the life that was meant for me. Perhaps I was never supposed to be. But while I existed, I would fight for every breath that kept me alive.
Guilt was her poison, and I was pouring it down her throat.
“I’ve seen how ruthless you can be. It’s a side I don’t like, but you don’t either. So I’m not afraid that’s who you truly are. Because it’s not. It’s the hurt and pain lashing out, needing to make someone else feel the way you did all those years. It’s not good, Em. But it doesn’t define you.”
This was just the beginning of our healing. Of being forgiven. I knew I would struggle with it at times, and feel like I was fighting for every breath. I just had to remember, there was always a choice. And I chose to live. I chose to love. I chose to breathe.