Review: Out of Breath (#3, Breathing Series) by Rebecca Donovan

My Thoughts

Painfully honest. Heartbreaking. Emotional.
This book closes a series which will remain with me always. It’s a beautiful story of survival, hope and love.

5stars

Synopsis

out of breath cvoerEmma leaves Weslyn and everyone in it behind to attend Stanford University, just as she always intended. A shell of her former self, she is not the same girl. She is broken, and the only way that she’ll be whole again is through forgiveness. Emma must find a way to forgive herself and recognize her own worth before she can receive the love she deserves. This final installment will have readers holding their breath until the very last page.

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Do not read this review if you have not read Reason to Breathe and Barely Breathing. 

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My Review

“I’m not supposed to live without you. And you’re not supposed to live without me. We’re in this life together. Without each other, we’re not really living.”

This book shook me to the core. It tore me open with its painful, honest and raw emotions. I really felt the pain and the guilt Emma carried with her and it was so heartbreaking to experience. I felt the heaviness of the weight she carried, the hopelessness that she succumbed to so many times. In a way, this book is a study in juxtaposition… there’s the calm demeanor Emma exudes on the outside, the slow build of the story, the reluctant revelation of secrets and the gradual coming together of two people in love. At the same time, we see or rather, we feel the angry feelings that swirl just beneath the surface, the suffocating guilt, the violent memories that won’t let go, the dangerous mix of painful emotions just waiting to burst and consume. It’s a powerful incongruity of emotions: calm and bursting, silence and loudness, love and hate, hope and hopelessness, survival and death. I was gripped by the heartrending journey that all these characters each traversed, holding my breath until the very end. We start the story with Emma in college after she left Evan is Weslyn. Soon, Freshman year turns into Sophmore year and it’s been 2 years since she left her former life behind. Emma is still so broken and becomes determined to feel numb, suppressing the painful feelings that threaten to burst.

“A craving to feel. To fill the bottomless void that had splintered open when I left Weslyn. I yearned to feel something… anything. Even if it was wrong.”

The story doesn’t begin with Evan and Emma and we get to know new characters: Serena, Peyton, Meg and… Cole. Yes, there is another boy. And he’s likable, dammit. We also still have the world’s most amazing best friend, Sara, who is an immovable rock to Emma. But as Emma struggles to leave her past behind, her attempt to live in the present means anesthetizing her feelings with adrenaline.

“There was only something to fear if I had something to lose. And I had nothing.”

Emma was leaving me literally breathless with fear so many times. My heart would freeze as scenes in the book developed. And as much as her circle of friends tried to make things okay… things were absolutely not okay. I desperately wanted, needed, Evan back in the picture. She is so haunted by her past, with hurtful words ever present, always whispering she wasn’t worth anything. It was brilliant to thread these thoughts throughout the story line because it certainly escalated everything I was feeling.

“They weren’t nightmares but whispers that haunted me in the dark, not letting me rest, not letting me go, not allowing me to forget.”

And then, yet another tragedy befalls and sinks Emma under even deeper. In Reason to Breathe, I was paralyzed with fear and shocked at what happened… In Barely Breathing, I was torn to pieces multiple times, my soul shattering when she left Evan… and in Out of Breath, I felt so scared for Emma, uncertain whether she would be able to find light in darkness. And finally, Evan comes back in the picture. My heart leapt out of my chest. I felt insecure, reluctant, grateful. But their reunion was anything but easy. So much had happened, so many feelings of guilt and anger still existed, so many secrets still divided them… and now, they were both different people. There were so many times I felt on the verge of crying, my heart so full of hurt and sadness and even expectation. Their seeing each other for the first time was one of those moments and even as I write this, I can still totally feel my heart constricting. Emma is focused on getting Evan to hate her. He should hate her, right? It was the only logical outcome in her mind. She deserved it. He was just another person whose life she destroyed.

“You’re supposed to hate me!… Why don’t you hate me, Evan?!”

Evan himself is shocked and shattered at who Emma has become. She is nothing like her former self.

“That girl was once full of life and confidence, even if she had a hard time seeing it herself. I had always known it was there. It was what had attracted me to her in the first place. And now… I couldn’t see it.”

I loved the honesty of their situation… that they didn’t come together immediately, all problems forgotten. Evan’s emotions were real and believable. I totally got he had doubts… that he was uncertain of what he wanted… that he still harbored a lot of anger over what Emma did.

“Nate wasn’t convinced that Emma wouldn’t still destroy me. And I’d never admit it to him, but… I wasn’t either.”

But at the same time, it was beautiful, because I really felt the connection, the longing and the love just beneath the surface. I kept repeating to myself that they belonged together. They need each other. The HAVE TO END UP TOGETHER! Okay, so a part of me was screaming at Rebecca Donovan to make it so because I really didn’t know where the story would go and I felt like I would fall apart if they didn’t have their happily ever after.

“As much as you’d like me to hate you, I can’t. And I’m not here to ask for you back either.”

Their time together is complicated, heartbreaking, heart-filling, honest and so moving. The book is written in a way that you have both Emma’s and Evan’s POV simultaneously, one right after the other, so that you feel and understand what they are going through. And ohmigod, I absolutely love and adore Evan even more than before. He is just so amazing. He is so selfless always thinking about Emma’s happiness and safety. He’s so protective of her and he loves her so much. This is soul-deep kind of love. He too, however, is carrying guilt he needs to shed.

“All I wanted to do was protect Emma from everything that hurt her… And even though I’d failed time and time again, it wasn’t going to stop me from trying.”

Thankfully, this book has a happy ending with which I was really happy. It also has an Epilogue that brings more closure that we needed. I will say though, that I want more. I hope Rebecca will consider extending the Epilogue in some way. I just feel so invested in these characters that I want to immerse myself more in their future, in their happiness. Out of Breath has been one of my favorite reads this year. So powerful, so moving. There is no fixing here… this story is about being brave enough to fight through the pain, finding hope in the belief that you can be happy and allowing yourself to be loved despite the imperfections, the pain and the insecurities that define us all.

“Every breath I breathe is because of you… Even when you weren’t there to save me, you were my reason to breathe. And for that I will always love you. Always.

BREATHING SERIES

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Comments

  1. Mary Williams says:

    WOW! You are so spot on in this review!!! It’s like you reached into my mind and wrote down my thoughts!! The Breathing Series did leave me Breathless! I really hope people that read the reviews at the end of each book don’t pay attention to all the negative comments. Some that I read after the 1st book were hateful and some were just down right mean!! I personally loved this story and also want more!! It would be awesome to see just one more book, I need a little more of Emma and Evan and I have unanswered questions!!! Thank you for such an awesome review!!

    • vcurran says:

      Mary, thank you so very much for your comment! I loved the story like you did and I would love to see just a little bit more Evan and Emma… maybe like 5 years later or more. THANKS again! 🙂

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