Guide/Reviews Database
OLDER FICTION
McGovern, Cammie

Just Breathe

(2) YA In this slow-burn romance novel told from alternating perspectives, McGovern (Say What You Will, rev. 7/14; A Step Toward Falling, rev. 9/15) introduces another pair of disparate teens who forge an unlikely connection, this time over a shared experience with chronic illness. Jamie, homeschooled for most of her life, feels isolated after her father's suicide and her own hospitalization for depression. Then she meets and befriends David, the senior-class president, while she is volunteering at the hospital. At school, David is a celebrity, but at the hospital, he is a cystic fibrosis patient grappling with a dire prognosis. The two divulge their nerdy interests (for Jamie, old movies; for David, ballroom dancing), exchange gently flirtatious emails, and share deep thoughts over origami. Their conversations are notably forthright; they approach difficult topics--such as the stigma of hidden illness, impossible expectations from friends and family, and the intersections of mental and physical health--from sensitive and age-appropriate perspectives. The thrill of intimacy inspires despondent David to seize control of his increasingly limited life, but when he enlists Jamie to sneak him out of the hospital, disaster ensues. The subsequent cascade of consequences veers toward melodrama (for example, David hovers over his body in a coma dream for a few chapters), but the resolution, like the teens' relationship, unfolds carefully, without sugarcoating, and feels genuinely earned.

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