Momma Leighellen's Book Review
“Here is where I began.”
Oh my goodness. This book, you guys!! Breathless gave me all the tears! And made me feel all the heartache I remembered feeling during the summers I spent on Cape Cod as a teen. Jennifer Niven so perfectly captured the turmoil, hope, and beauty of life at 18 during that “in between” summer when you graduate from High School and before heading off to college. All of the unknowns, all the sadness of the endings and the anticipation of what’s next.
“Is this a defining moment for me? And if so, what will I do with all these pieces?”
This is a compulsively readable story of a young woman ready to write her own narrative. Breathless follows 18 year old Claudine Henry as she’s preparing for high school graduation and trying to decide if she’s ready to lose her virginity, maybe with her boyfriend or maybe with the boy she’s had a crush on forever…only to find out her incredibly happy parents who never fight are separating. Her best friend has a new love interest and her mom is whisking her away to a remote, mosquito-infested island off the coast of Georgia. Basically her life is a mess.
“What makes someone stop loving you? One day there’s love; the next day there’s not. Where does it go? Something that lived and breathed like that – how can it just vanish as if it never really existed?”
As she struggles with the realization that her life isn’t what she expected to be, she also tries to figure out her new relationship with her parents. What does it means to know her parents lied to her. Does that mean they don’t love her anymore?
“Where do you think love goes when people stop loving you? Do you think there’s like a junkyard where all the lost and discarded love is collected?”
But then Jeremiah Crew happens. She meets “Miah” when she arrives on the island. He is a local trail guide with a passion for photography and a past he doesn’t talk about. He’s brash and mysterious and so perfectly what she needs at the time. Her practical brain tells her there’s not enough time to fall in love but maybe she is ready to reinvent herself. Maybe she can give herself to him and not become attached.
“Love complicates everything. It makes you hurt and it makes you doubt and it makes you wish you didn’t love. It makes you want to be watchful so that nothing bad or surprising ever happens. It makes you never want to love anyone again because they’ll only hurt you. ”
Instead of running away, she allows herself to press into her feelings. The two spend time over the next 4 weeks of summer getting to know each other, hiking, biking, swimming…and yes, exploring their bodies together. They decide to be honest with each other, but what happens when summer ends?
“This is the closest I will ever come to having someone see me for me. The me I really am and all that me encompasses. The things that I like about myself and the things that I don’t.”
I loved this book so much. I almost DNF’d in the beginning due to the brash nature of the high school kids and the blunt sex talk in the lunch room. If that stuff bothers you, I encourage you to push through. Once Claude is on the island, the book settles into a more natural, thoughtful rhythm as we see the inner turmoil and dialogue of what Claude wants for herself and why. There’s also an incredible historical side story of her ancestors on the island, as well as Miah’s love of nature that add depth and connection. This one left me breathless and plenty of tears were shed. Jennifer Niven did a fantastic job capturing the hopeless yet hope filled moments of wonder in adolescence.
“Use your voice. Let others in. Choose your future. Choose your body. Choose yourself.”