~ I received an ARC of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Massive thanks to the publishers for the opportunity!~
There are some books out there that can really speak to you on a personal level. This book was just one of those books for me. The entire time I read this book I was swept away in a kind of nostalgic whirlwind of a story. A story that was honest, real, poignant, heartbreaking and felt like a true recollection of those moments that make up a life, those moments that touch us the most and make us realise we are alive, for good or for worse.
Breathless is about Claude and her experiences one summer before she is due to start her first year at college. One minute her mind’s full of road trip plans with her best friend and the possibility of having sex for the first time with the boy she likes and the next her whole world crumbles to pieces when her Dad tells her he’s leaving her Mum. In the aftermath of her life changing forever, Claude goes with her Mum to a remote island. There, while her Mum busies herself with writing, Claude tries desperately to stop herself from falling apart. She meets Jeremiah Crew, an infuriatingly charming boy her age who might be the only thing that can give her all she dreams of, at the risk of her heart completely breaking into a million more pieces.
One of the things that really made me love this book is the way Jennifer Niven’s writing captured moments in life at their rawest, saddest, fleeting and most beautiful. Claude’s life and her experiences as a teenager at a moment when her world is completely changing with her family breaking apart, not to mention when she is already on the cusp of a complete life change what with going to college, was something I could really relate to. My parents split up when I was little and then my parents and my step-parents on both sides split up at different times when I was older. So yeah, I really get how difficult it can be to grasp what that means and how it changes everything for everyone. Claude is also dealing with the possibility of losing her best friend, who has a new girlfriend and is going to college far away from Claude. Loss and change are such big, inevitable things in life and I just felt that Jennifer Niven did such a wonderful job putting the anxiety and fear we all feel about both into words.
I truly loved Jeremiah’s part of the story and how Claude’s relationship with him developed throughout the book. While it was undoubtedly heartbreaking, I came away from the book with the feeling that falling in love for the first time is such a beautiful, rewarding experience and also with a sense of hope. I loved Claude and Jeremiah’s adventures on the island and how all their moments together were all about enjoying the present and trying not to think about the ending. Which is impossible, obviously, but such is life and I could really relate to this aspect of their love story, as it was something I went through when I first met my now-husband (we were lucky enough to be in a later stage in life when we could decide to make those sacrifices and compromises that let us be together).
Claude experiences a lot of firsts with Jeremiah and yes, that does include her first experience of sex. I liked Claude’s personal opinions about the whole “losing your virginity” thing and feel like how the book depicts something we all go through one way or another was really relatable. There were times I forgot Claude and Jeremiah are only eighteen, though, as sometimes I felt they were voicing ideas about sex and exploring sex in a way I certainly didn’t until I was well into my twenties. That’s not at all a criticism about the book, though, as I completely agreed with all the sex-related discussions in the book and hope that more teens have these views and also have the courage to talk about them!
I loved the relationship between Claude and her Mum. While I would have loved more of their relationship, I loved what we did get, especially as they enjoyed exploring their family history on the island and taking the time to talk to each other about their real feelings, all secrets aside. Their relationship by the end of the book reminded me in some ways of how close I am to my Mum, which is something really special to me as she is my hero. One of my favourite things about this book was the fact that Claude’s Mum is a writer and that Claude dreams of being one. This is something I can completely relate to as I spent my teenage years filling notebooks and word documents with thoughts, poems and stories. Something I should be doing more of now in my adult life and definitely mean to! Claude’s relationship with her Dad was more complicated and while she spent much of the book feeling betrayed by him, I really enjoyed the depiction of their relationship because it was just so real and felt very much like how most teenagers would react in the same situation. I also loved Claude’s friendship with her bestie Saz and how the changes in their friendship due to being apart and becoming new people were explored. They were so cute and there for each other even when everything was changing. I would have loved to see more of their friendship, actually!
I honestly don’t know how to capture my feelings about this book and my reading experience beyond what I have already said. I just really loved it and found it so moving, refreshing and relatable. I would definitely recommend giving this book a try when it comes out as I really feel it has a little something for everyone, especially if you happen to be a teenager going through some big, inevitable changes in your life. It’s a book that made me remember moments in my own life, made me think about how much we should all treasure life and the people we love, and also made me want to find the energy to write again. Breathless is dreamy, inspiring, full of feeling and, in Claude and Jeremiah’s shoes, will take you on an adventure you never expected.
I hope you enjoyed reading my review! I would love to hear your thoughts, especially if you have read this book or are planning to 😊
Happy reading and writing,