Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, May 17, 2012

Plot Summary:
After returning home from Patterson Hospital, Ryan is trying to resume a normal life. Despite the fact that everyone at school know what he did, he tries to stay under the radar. Ryan lives in an amazing glass house near a beautiful waterfall, which is where he spends most of his time. Every day, Ryan wades the slippery rocks to stand under the mighty waterfall; the feeling of the cold water and the pressure makes him feel alive. One day, as he makes his way down to the waterfall, Ryan meets Nicki. Although he can't remember her name, Nicki is different than most girls. In fact, she happens to be the sister of one of the resident "bad boys," but according to her brother, Kent, she is more screwed up than he is. Besides Nicki, Ryan really only talks to two other people and that's Val and Jake; they met each other at the hospital and are really good friends. Until recently, Ryan has kept to himself avoiding people as much as he can, but when Nicki asks him the inevitable question, he learns that her own father committed suicide. Unsure how to handle this question, Ryan finds himself on a journey that will not only help him admit the truth behind that night in the garage, but learn how to feel alive again.  

Critical Evaluation:
Try Not To Breathe is an honest, evocative, and compelling story about life and death. Although Ryan tried to commit suicide, he doesn't fully realize the reasons as to why he wanted to die until he met Nicki. Although Nicki built her relationship with Ryan around pursuing the truth about her own father's suicide, these two characters were brought together to help each other with their loss and confusion. The main theme of this story revolves around the ability to feel. Ryan has lived the last few years looking through a pane of glass he sees what's going, but he is numb to everything. For Nicki, she is the complete opposite. Since the death of her father, she has been constantly looking for the reasons as to why her father would kill himself, which leads her to many different conclusions and foolish quests (i.e., seeking out a psychic). She is so wrapped up in finding the truth that she puts her heart and hope in the open where she risks being disappointed and hurt. Nicki, unlike Ryan, is a go getter, which makes her the ideal partner Ryan. As for Ryan's friends, Val and Jake, it turns out that they both needed him to get through their difficulties.  Although Ryan does acknowledge the fact that Val and Jake were the ones who made him change, it was his transformation that inspired them to want to get on with life. However, Ryan had something important to help him cope with his problems:  he had a kindred spirit. Ever since he met Nicki, Ryan  slowly re-discovers his own strength, which helps him to deal with his problems and, most importantly, being honest with himself. Now that he has someone he can actually talk to, other than a therapist, he has faith in himself to do the right thing.

Information about the Author:
In her blog, Jennifer R. Hubbard grew up in New England and currently lives in Philadelphia, PA. She has been writing stories since she was six years old. According to Hubbard:
My grandfather worked at a printing plant that produced spiral-bound notebooks. Any flaws in the printing or binding process would land the notebooks in the company store at a steep discount, so I always had plenty of notebooks on hand. Now I write on a computer most of the time.
Although she is a night person, she likes to take hikes and eat chocolate (maybe both at the same time). Try Not to Breathe is her second YA novel and she has written short fiction in both the Willow Review and the North American Review.

Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Try Not to Breathe:

Awards & Recognition:
  • Starred Review Kirkus Review (12/1/2011)
  • Starred Review Publisher's Weekly (12/12/2011)
If you, or a friend, are suffering from depression, or suicidal thoughts, please seek help from an adult as soon as possible. If not, immediately dial 911 or the Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255).

 Here are a list of resources that can get you the help you need:

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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