ARC Review: Breathless by Jennifer Niven

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I received an ARC of this book via Penguin (Penguin Random House Children’s UK) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



You were my first. Not just sex, although that was part of it, but the first to look past everything else into me. Some of the names and places have been changed, but the story is true.

Claudine Henry was not supposed to spend her summer on this remote island off the coast of Georgia. 

She was supposed to be on a road trip with her best friend, spending every last minute together before they go to college. 

But after her father makes a shock announcement, she is exiled with her shaken mother, with no phone service and no one she knows. She is completely cut off. 

Until she meets Jeremiah. Free spirited, mysterious and beautiful, their chemistry is immediate and irresistible. 

They both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, but maybe one summer is enough…

My thoughts

I have a soft spot for Jennifer Niven’s books. Since I read All The Bright Places (a lifetime ago, it must be now!), I knew I’d discovered a writer that gets you interested from the word go and leaves you breathless once the story comes to an end. Whilst Holding up The Universe didn’t interest me as much as Niven’s debut, I’m happy to report that (for the most part) Breathless didn’t disappoint.

Whilst I’m long past my teenage days, the main character Claudine is still a relatable character. She’s struggling with the changing family dynamic, adjusting to a new place and finding out that love is a terrifying, confusing, exciting thing. Though she definitely did her annoying moments, and I just wished she’d say how she felt instead of leaving other characters (and the reader) hanging, there’s something about her that pulled me in and I took her in like a big sister as I read on.

Though restrictions in the U.K. have lifted somewhat, I feel like I’ve forgotten what places look like. Until I visited the city centre the other day – at my own peril – I didn’t realise how much I had forgotten about it! Niven writes about places in such vivid, rich detail I almost felt like I wasn’t in my house in the northwest of England but I was running through forests with Claudine and Miah, soaking in the sea at the beach, getting lost in rich family history.

Niven’s narrative about sex and relationships is so honest, raw and necessary. So many YA books sugar coat sex, brush over it or don’t really acknowledge that it isn’t just about what’s happening. It’s about bodies, people, their thoughts and their feelings. Breathless definitely doesn’t do this, and I think more books need to follow Niven’s lead.

My only problem with the book was, whilst I liked Claudine for the most part, I didn’t gel with Miah. He embodies YA novel teenage boy. Mysterious, cocky but sensitive, sweet. There was nothing wrong with his character, really, but I just didn’t gel with him as much as I did other characters. This meant it took me a lot longer than usual to get involved with the romance taking place in the book.

Even so, Breathless is a bit of escapism I think everyone needs with a romance that might just leave you breathless.

Breathless will be published on 29th September 2020.

What have you been reading recently? I’d love to chat in the comments 😊.

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