“No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?”
He knows there’s something more to the girl sitting in the back of the class the moment he sees her. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and athletic – but she slips quietly through the crowded halls, trying not to exist. Determined to get to know the elusive girl, Evan soon discovers…
Emma Thomas is hiding a terrible a secret.
Reason to Breathe is an electrifying page turner from start to finish, a unique tale of life-changing love, unspeakable cruelty, and one girl’s fragile grasp of hope.
**This review contains a few spoilers**
Those who know me, know that I love reading angsty stories and so when I read the product description for Reason to Breathe I knew that it would immediately draw me in and pull at my heartstrings.
What I didn’t expect is a rollercoaster of emotions as I experienced a book that highlighted a heartbreaking yet very real subject matter.
When we meet Emma she is a quiet unassuming girl. She’s a good student – excelling at her studies and carving a promising sporting career with offers of scholarships at Ivy League schools falling at her feet. She runs the school newspaper and is well respected by her fellow students. And she helps out her family at home.
Yet it is when we learn of her home life that we realise that all is not what it seems. Having been put in the care of her aunt and uncle at a young age, it becomes very apparent very early on that Emma suffers at the hands of her very evil, very cruel aunt. Through Emma we live first hand the horror that she goes through day in day out and whilst the descriptions of such abuse aren’t detailed graphically, the premise of what they entail is enough to give you shivers down your spine.
The light in Emma’s life is Sara, her best friend who knows the fate she suffers yet feels helpless as Emma begs her not to say anything to anyone for reasons that become apparent as the story develops. We also meet Evan, the kind hearted, good looking, gentle boy who gives his heart to Emma almost immediately much to her dismay. Yet because of the drama of her home life, Emma denies Evan – and herself – over and over again for fear of making things worse than anyone can ever imagine. As things take a dramatic turn for the worse, you find yourself asking – no pleading – for Sara and Evan to finally save Emma from the horror she is living.
At times I found myself frustrated with Emma in this story. Whilst I understood her reasons for not letting Sara or Evan break down the brick wall she has built around her, I found myself almost yelling at her to confide in them fully and to share the burden of her life. I sympathised with Evan as he tried to figure Emma out and when his patience finally ran out I despaired with him.
The subject matter is not for the faint-hearted. Child abuse of any form is intolerable and hard to read about and it is dealt with in a very real and sympathetic way. The details are enough to give the reader a sense of the horrific ordeal that Emma has to live through, without being overly graphic. And whilst I was frustrated with the decisions she made; I was not unsympathetic for the way Emma dealt with the abuse she received. Her reasons for keeping quiet about her home life are understandable to a certain extent but it didn’t stop me from wanting to take her under my wing and convince her into telling someone exactly what was happening.
I can’t say I ‘enjoyed’ this book because, again, the subject matter is not something that anyone can enjoy, but I was hooked and I desperately wanted to find out whether Emma would be saved. And it is for that reason that I also found myself disheartened by the way it ended. As someone who wanted justice to be done, I didn’t quite get the sense that Emma – or Evan for that matter – received their closure.*
Having said that, I would fully recommend this book to anyone who likes to read a story that is full of drama and angst with a romantic edge. But be warned, you need to have a strong heart to get you through.
* Since writing this review, I have learned from Rebecca’s website that a sequel is in the works and I will definitely be pre-ordering it once it becomes available. You can check out Rebecca’s website by clicking here for deleted scenes, character profiles and more news on that sequel.