27 February 2010

Breathless by Jessica Warman

Katie Kitrell's life is a mess. It was when her mom finally became a successful artist and her dad started a psychiatry practice and the family actually had some money that Katie first started to feel the true burden of hatred and jealousy. The only friend she had was her older brother Will. But Will has been in and out of her life since elementary school, and the summer before sophomore year turns out to be the worst. After Will's most recent bout of "losing it," Katie's parents admit him to a psychiatric hospital and send her off to boarding school. Unlike many typical teen novels, Katie can't wait to be shipped off. At boarding school, she lies about her family and tells everyone that her brother is dead, and she focuses on other things: she finds some real friends, falls in love, and excels at swimming. But Katie just cannot escape her family or the love (and hatred) she feels for her brother. The family issues are reminiscent of Dana Reinhardt's How to Build a House, and while Katie makes some poor decisions throughout the novel and she has no idea how to handle her emotions, she's authentic and inspiring.

Not everything in this novel seems to work. Readers will connect with Katie, but Drew doesn't feel quite right. There is a lot of the drinking, smoking, and general misconduct found in many novels with "rich kid" settings, but the reader keeps wondering just how committed Katie is to swimming (she keeps saying how important it is). And there is such a mish-mosh of issues -- Will's schizophrenia, her roommates big secret, the "mean girls," and the rags-to-riches life, among others -- that the reader might get lost in all of them, and forget to focus on the real story of Katie's internal struggles. Nevertheless, this book is certainly worth adding to your reading pile.

Call number: YA WARMAN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

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