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Breathe by Penni Russon
Cover Artist: Chad W. Beckerman
Review by Gayle Surrette
HarperTeen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0060793937
Date: 01 February, 2007 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Breathe follows on the story told in Undine. Trout is having a problem sleeping and every night after his parents and brothers fall asleep, he slips out of the house and becomes part of the night, walking the streets and listening to the sounds of night in Hobart, Tasmania. He feels disconnected from life. A few months ago, he nearly died and he feels that was a cheat and he should have died. His grades are plummeting and it's his 12th year. He's in love with the girl next door and she just wants to be friends -- only it's hard to be friends with someone who doesn't love you back, who has magic at her command, and who doesn't really see you. So, Trout goes through the motions until he gets pulled into a relationship he doesn't understand or control and finally chaos, true chaos, seems to be taking over his life.

Since this is a second book using the same characters, it's expected that they'd be well developed. However, these teens were so real, you almost expect to meet them on the street. The feelings were spot on -- even though it's been years since I was that age, I don't think it's changed that much. The world is different and in this case there's the magic to contend with but it's still the same family problem, the same thoughts about whether you're a disappointment, the same fear about what happens next in your life.

Some times I wonder, not that so many teenagers commit suicide, but that so many more manage to live through all the pain, confusion, tumultuous feelings and come out on the other side relatively sane.

Trout, Undine, and Maxine have got real problems in their lives. Each feels they have to solve these problems on their own. None of them realize that others have been there before and may be able to help. Yet each one goes on alone trying to do what they feel they must to go on with their life. Russon's story may be listed as fantasy but the root problems are reality, the reality of most teen's lives. It only takes a chapter to begin to care and by chapter two you don't want to put the book down because you have to know what going to happen next.

As with so much of life, not everyone gets a happy ending and while the ending fits with the world as it is -- I wished for more closure. But then what's life but a continuing story that doesn't have a neat happily ever after though some of us may get close.

(Young Adult -- Grade 9 and up.)

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