breath to breath – book recommendation

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breathTitle: breath to breath

Written by: Craig Lew

Edited by: Emma D. Dryden

Published by: Relish Media. Expected date- November, 2015

Themes/Topics: child sexual exploitation, empathy, parental addiction, memory suppression, football hazing, secrets

Suitable for ages: 14+

Reviewed from an ARC won through a Goodreads Giveaway


To survive you hold your breath, but to live you must exhale.

Serpentine Girl

A Girl Walking just ahead.                                                                                              Swaying.                                                                                                                        Serpentine hips.                                                                                                            Swagger.                                                                                                                         Graceful
Nice long, flowing, straight hair.                                                                                    Sweeping,                                                                                                                                Not quite a blonde,                                                                                                                   not quite                                                                                                                            brunette.                                                                                                                                  Sleek yet cool, casual style.                                                                                                Except                                                                                                                                      for her knee-highs.                                                                                                                     One green.                                                                                                                                   One white                                                                                                                       


After the death of his grandfather, seventeen-year-old William is sent across country from his quiet Kansas home to live with his estranged father on the coast of California, His dad has four house rules: the second floor is off limits; no friends over; don’t fuck with the TV and get a job! The new school provides a mix of acceptance and rejection. A mix of: bullies, a compassionate counselor, a geeky boy, and cool football coach provide at least some stability in this rocky new world.  He’s starting to find his feet when he is confronted with a situation in which he feels compelled to help an abused four-year-old boy, “Patches’. He continues to encounter an elusive Patches and hears and sees things which start to unlock things in his past.

While he discovers new sides to himself as a skilled football player, accepting friend of outcast, Ollie, and prospective boyfriend of cute empath, Shasten, William’s world is blown apart as he tries to help the abused kid. The search for Patches’ real identity and whereabouts leads William to the truth behind the mysterious young boy’s stories of extreme sexual abuse. As William battles with devastating memories surging into his consciousness, he discovers the unexpected connection he has with the little abused boy. Seething rage drives him to steal a neighbor’s guns, convinced he must kill those responsible for betraying one so young and causing so much pain.

Through his own evolution and encounters with caring teens and adults, William finds the compassion he needs to make difficult choices as the book concludes. Inspired by a true story, BREATH TO BREATH explores what hurt and healing really mean: to survive you hold your breath, but to live you must exhale.

Why I like This Book:

Young adult readers unfamiliar with reading stories in verse and who don’t usually enjoy poetic language will almost certainly enjoy this book. Craig Lew creates a story that combines the lyrical with cinematic action and doesn’t fall into the trap of adulterating story for the sake of language. The story moves forward with energy and passion and yet with time to inhale, pause and absorb some of the internal anguish of William’s world. This is a masterful debut verse novel with great pacing, dynamic word choice, and a style that carries the reader into the narrative and William’s conscious and subconscious with ease despite the pain we will encounter.

The subject matter is gritty and at times harrowing, with violence and graphic sexual content. The choice of verse proves very apt for converting these hard moments. No scene or language felt extraneous and knowing this was based on a true story, helped me understand the content choice. Despite the lies, betrayal and abuse William has experienced, the novel is beautiful and the thread of empathy woven throughout the story allows for an uplifting aftertaste when the last page has been read.

The NCTSN states that, “Child sexual abuse is not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported.” I welcome books like breath to breath for our teens. While this will never be an easy topic to read or speak about, it is so important that our young people read stories like this to give them courage to speak out and seek help for themselves and others. This is a profoundly moving, tragic and superbly crafted book that I hope will find its place onto many school library shelves.


  • The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.
  • National Child Sexual Abuse Helpline – Darkness to Light
    1-866-FOR-LIGHT (866-367-5444)
    Darkness to Light provides a toll-free number for individuals living in the United States who need local information and resources about sexual abuse. Any individual, child or adult who needs resources about sexual abuse can call the Helpline.
  • Kids Helpline for child abuse: 1800-55-1800
  • Stop it Now is a website that looks at healing and recovery from sexual abuse
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1 Response to breath to breath – book recommendation

  1. I love realistic fiction. Just added this to my list. Excellent review, as always!

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