The finish line is only the beginning…
Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can”t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honour his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race. But the training is even more gruelling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she”s at war with her body, her mind-and her heart.
With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.
Breathe, Annie, Breathe is beautifully written book about overcoming grief, finding yourself again and starting anew. It contains authentic characters who have realistic responses and reactions to things in their life, and you will find yourself cheering them on for each new development they experience. Think I enjoyed this book? Absolutely.
Annie is probably one the most likable YA characters that I’ve met in a while. When the book opens, she is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her boyfriend, and her inner guilt for the role she feels she played in his death. As a coping mechanism, she has decided to take his place in a marathon that is scheduled six months from the start of the book, and has signed up for a running training course to help her to achieve her goal. Right there, Annie had me. I loved that she was smart, fun and goal-oriented, but that she was also emotional and deeply committed to the people she loved. She even maintained contact with her boyfriend’s family, and had a cadre of friends and family, including some new friends from her running clinics. Despite her grief, Annie managed to move on with her life by moving into her college dorm and continuing her schooling. Huzzah for a strong female character who doesn’t curl up into a tiny ball and instead grieves while living her life!
The story is told within the outline of her training schedule, with every session marking a change in Annie’s growth and determination. It also allows us to see her natural acceptance of Kyle’s death, and her start towards a new relationship with Jeremiah Brown. Fans of Kenneally’s work will recognize him as the younger brother of Matt Brown, hero of a previous novel, but not to worry – no previous knowledge is necessary to enjoy this book as a standalone. I also loved Jeremiah, an adrenaline junkie who pushes Annie out of her comfort zone in a multitude of ways. He’s also not perfect as he has his own issues to work through, and it was so refreshing to see a YA male who had problems but who also had some great relationships around him. The interplay between Matt and Jeremiah was authentic and so much fun to read (honestly, it felt like a dialogue between my own brothers), and it allowed us to see Jeremiah as a rounded character. There is definite chemistry between Annie and Jeremiah, but Kenneally doesn’t push it past the first meeting (although – shew! There’s an initial attraction scene that definitely sizzles), allowing both characters the chance to step back and to learn about each other as friends and training partners before they move on to more.
A word about the running scenes … it’s where I really respected this book. So often in YA a character will choose to pick up a sport and miraculously be awesome at it within a matter of weeks. Not here. Annie struggles with running, and she encounters all the classic issues that a new runner would experience. I have many friends who train for marathons, and they still experience chaffing, extreme hunger, dehydration, lactic acid buildup and puking – and they’ve been doing it for years. I loved that Annie had to commit herself to training for her races, that she threw up (because, let’s face it, sometimes you do), and that she was terrified of her first few runs. Running is hard, people, especially when you train for something big, and it can be overwhelming at times. I have to admire an author who puts that out there, and even more so for allowing her character to work through it.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Annie and Jeremiah, and it makes me want to go back and re-read the other books in the Hundred Oaks series. I can’t wait to recommend it to students and library patrons who will love it as much as I do.
Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.
Find Miranda here: website / goodreads / twitter / facebook
Miss a stop? The tour visited Siobhan at Conversations of a Reading Addict yesterday, and will head to Andrea at Cozy Up With a Good Read next. . Breathe, Annie, Breathe is published by Sourcebooks Fire, and is available in Canada via Raincoast Books at your friendly independent bookstore, Indigo and Kobo. ISBN: 9781402284793, 306 pages.