Review: Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Image from Goodreads
Image from Goodreads

Title: Reason to Breathe
Series: The Breathing Series #1
Author: Rebecca Donovan
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 8 Nov 2012
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

An passionate love. A brutal betrayal. Unwavering hope.

In a town where most people worry about what to be seen in and who to be seen with, Emma Thomas would rather not be seen at all. She’s more concerned with feigning perfection, pulling down her sleeves to conceal the bruises. Emma doesn’t want anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is.

When Emma unexpectedly finds love, it challenges her to recognize her own worth – but at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she’s desperate to hide.


Beautiful, eloquent and articulate writing that deals with major issues in a powerful, poignant and compassionate manner. This isn’t just an ‘issues’ story – its a story of love, friendship and above all else hope.

Told in first person narrative from Emma’s perspective. Emma is very timid, abandoned by her drunken mother after the death of her father a few years ago, beaten by her aunt for any reason possible; Emma is driven to succeed in order to escape and make a life for herself away from everything, she literally counts down the days til she can go to college. A talented soccer player she is hoping for a scholarship in order to make her own way through this mess. She always keeps to herself shying away from people in order to hide her life from everyone. The question of why Emma doesn’t seek help is such a well developed point within the plot that while not completely agreeing with her thinking there is an understanding achieved from the explanation. Emma is utterly selfless putting the happiness of her cousins before her own. She is a very special person.

I honestly could not understand Carol’s reaction to Emma at all, some explanation is given in the form of needing medication and it maybe that she is emotionally unbalanced however this is no excuse for her treatment of Emma. Carol does everything in her power to break Emma, both verbally and physically. It is quite literally stomach churning to imagine what Emma goes through. The descriptions within the narrative so powerful that it causes a physical reaction akin to a punch in the stomach. You can feel the fear pouring off Emma whenever she is around her Aunt. Very powerful writing to create such reactions, Rebecca Donovan manages to weave tension in every single page whether it be nervous or romantic.

New Boy, Evan, manages to get through Emma’s defenses, there is something different about Evan, he is undoubtedly hot yet there is a vulnerability to him. From a totally different (privileged) background  to Emma, yet completely down-to-earth. It is far more than just a physical attraction between Emma and Evan, there is a deep connection that grows the more time they spend together. Being around Evan pushes Emma’s boundaries and tolerance levels for the situation with her Aunt. Emma realizes that no matter what she does Carol is not going to change so she begins focusing on living rather than just surviving. The emotions and turmoil Emma feels are forcefully portrayed.

Although Emma keeps mainly to herself she has the most amazing friend in Sara, polar opposites Sara is the extrovert to Emma’s introvert. She is very protective of Emma and does what she can to look after her. I tried to put myself in Sara’s position, imagining how she must feel knowing that Emma is being physically abused yet having to keep her promise to Emma that she wouldn’t tell anyone. A very difficult position to be in.

All the elements of the story flow seamlessly. Romantic but with a desperate edge to it like walking along the edge of a razor blade – making a stomach clenching, heart racing, lip trembling, sobbing mess of me. It’s a powerful story that is beautifully written. Be warned the ending will have you dashing off to get Book 2 because there is no way you will be able to wait to find out what happens.

Author: Book Angel

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