Saturday, September 19, 2015

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

When she was fifteen, Amy Stevenson was attacked and left for dead in a park not far from her house. Her attacker was never found. Fifteen years later, she still lies in a hospital bed in a vegetative state. She's as good as dead, unable to speak, see, move. But not even her doctors will categorically state that she doesn't hear or understand anything...

Alex Dale is the same age as Amy, and grew up in a neighboring town, familiar with the story of the attacked girl from her own school days. She's now a journalist, but in a sort of waking trance of her own. A barely functioning alcoholic, her career is on the skids, her marriage is over, and she rarely makes it past noon without disappearing into a drunken haze. During a visit to a hospital ward for a routine article on patient care, she comes across Amy. And for the first time in years, she cares about something other than at what time that day she can start drinking.

My take: 3 looks

This was a hard one for me to get invested in. However, I found that once the characters were set, I was into the action. The writing style of presenting different voices at different times was a nice tool, and only a few times did I need to re-reference the date at the beginning of the chapter. The fact that the comatose Amy also had a voice was a huge plus for me. I have long believed that coma patients are very aware of their surroundings, and this was a nice story to support that.

With that said, I found it very difficult to believe that Jake was still so caught up in a puppy-love feeling after 15 years. Certainly he knew that he shouldered no guilt in her attack and current situation. There was nothing compelling in the fact that he was still so drawn to her. As a matter of fact, I found it a little creepy. Her best friends had moved on, after all, as had her own step-father. Jake, however, was alone is his stagnant life-role.

Fiona was another piece of work. I felt that the author wanted the reader to be a bit sympathetic to her, but her crazed antics over Jake's bank accounts were over-the-top. The fact that he married one woman, and she morphed into another would have been a believable premise, if she hadn't swayed back and forth between sane and off-the-rails. I would put it to pregnancy hormones, but the bank-account-incident was early in the marriage.

Alex was the savior of this novel for me. She was fully developed and drawn with precision: her continued struggle with being divorced, her dependence on alcohol, and her grasping for the story of Amy, hoping this story would get her back on track in her life. As she progressed, you saw her dependence slowly become independence, her weakness change into resolve, and her world in a bottle expand to include others around her.

The writing is a bit sluggish, the outcome is completely predictable, and the title of the book leaves me scratching my head. However, while this is no "Gone Girl" or "Girl on the Train", it is an interesting read, and worth your time.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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