If you guys follow this blog or know anything about me and my reading tastes then it should come as NO surprise that I signed up to be part of the Breathe, Annie, Breathe Blog Tour. I loooove Miranda Kennneally’s Hundred Oak Series, read them all, she’s one of my favorite contemporary YA writers and a definite “go-to” author–I’ll read whatever she puts out there. So, I hope you enjoy my review and stick around to enter the giveaway afterwards:)
Breathe, Annie, Breathe
by Miranda Kenneally
July 15, 2014
Source: A copy was provided for blog tour purposes.
Thanks, Xpresso Book Tours and Sourcebooks Fire:)
Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.
But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.
“Breathe, Annie, Breathe is an emotional, heartfelt, and beautiful story about finding yourself after loss and learning to love. It gave me so many feels. Her best book yet.” — Jennifer Armentrout, New York Times bestselling author ofWait for You. (Goodreads Summary.)
As a kid I had the worst mile time ever.
My Take On It
See that line up there? That’s Miranda’s dedication at the beginning of Breathe, Annie, Breathe. Miranda has some of the best book dedications. In Catching Jordan she dedicated the book “to all the bad ass chicks out there.” In Stealing Parker it was “to all the girls struggling to find their place.” In my favorite book of her Hundred Oaks series, Things I Can’t Forget, she dedicates the book “to all her readers”, and “hopes they find their own truth.” And those dedications are part of what I love about all of Miranda’s books. The positive messages that are infused with moments of awesome girl power.
What else do I love about this author and her writing? Hmmm…let me count the ways…I love the relatable, authentic characters. I love her heroines, each of whom is bad ass in her own way. I love her hot male leads, even when they do bonehead things or piss me off. I especially love her secondaries who help to complement the main characters but often steal the scene themselves. I love the authentic dialogue. I love the amazing SWOON factor each book possesses and the sex positive themes that are always included. I love how readable her books all are, and how accessible–whether you are a young adult, the target audience, or a not so young adult like me and many of my reader/blogger friends–Miranda’s books can be enjoyed by a wide spectrum of ages because each speak to universal themes like self discovery and identity; discovering first love and sexuality; and issues of faith and grief. So it doesn’t matter if you just starting out in life or are somewhere in the middle like me–these are things that we can all relate to in some fashion.
So, knowing all of these things I felt very confident that I would love Breathe, Annie, Breathe just as I love all the companion books in the Hundred Oaks series. And I did. A lot. I knew going in that this book would fall into the same camp as my two favorite Kenneally books: Stealing Parker (read my review) and Things I Can’t Forget (my review) in that they are a little bit more serious and issue driven. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE Catching Jordan and Racing Savannah–but it was Parker and Kate’s crisis of faith alongside their explorations of their sexuality and friend/mama drama that sucked me in and put them on my all-time favorite reads list. I knew from Breathe, Annie, Breathe’s synopsis that our heroine would be dealing with some heavy grief and loss. I didn’t know how much guilt played a role in the book or what a wonderful testament to love and forgiveness it would be turn out to be.
So, here is the set up: Annie recently lost her first love Kyle– the boy she started dating her freshman year of high school–the boy she thought she would one day marry. To honor him she has decided to to run the Music City Marathon– a race Kyle was training for when he died. It doesn’t matter that Annie is not a runner and has never taken on a goal like this. It doesn’t matter that she is dipping into her savings/college fund to pay for the expensive running shoes she’s wearing out every couple of months or the expensive marathon training lessons. The only thing that matters is that Annie does this one last thing for Kyle. So, from the start we the reader admire Annie. How could we not? In fact I’d go so far as to say Annie is the most likable and admirable of all of Miranda’s heroines. And listen, I’m no runner and I can’t even fathom running a marathon–but I was still SHOCKED by the toll that the training took on Annie’s body– it was reading these parts of the book that turned me from a mere Annie admirer to a bonafide FAN of this girl and what she was trying to accomplish. You know I always hear about these people who have “run a marathon” as part of their ‘bucket list’ but I never really related (I told you, I’m no runner) but after reading Breathe, Annie, Breathe, I kinda get it–the appeal that is. It really is an incredible achievement and it really does take an enormous amount of discipline and hard work physically–but I think more so mentally–to prepare for and accomplish this goal. People who run marathon’s are freaking tough, you guys. And if you have ever doubted that than just read this book and see what Annie goes through.
The marathon is the backbone of the book–the book is told in increments of time–all counting down to the race. But as the story unfolds, this book, at least in my opinion, is about so much more than Annie’s desire to do this last thing for Kyle. It becomes so much more than a story about grief and loss. It becomes a story about hope and forgiveness. It becomes a story about Annie discovering who she is and who she wants to be.
It’s also a love story– a story about learning to move forward even when there is part of you that can’t imagine doing so. It’s about learning to trust your heart with someone new–and how scary that can be–and like the book’s dedication implies–it’s a story about new beginnings. Our swoony male lead is Jeremiah Brown, younger brother to Things I Can’t Forget’s Matt Brown, who is back in this book as Annie’s trainer. All of us Miranda Kenneally fangirls love when she brings back our old favorites from past books–in Breathe, Annie Breathe we see Matt and Kate, Savannah and Jack, Kelsey, Vanessa and Rory and even Jordan and Sam Henry. Matt as a secondary gets the most screen time and it was awesome to read more about him–he’s still just as perfect as ever.
But what about Jeremiah?? Yeah, like all of Miranda’s book boys he’s a keeper too. He’s a different breed than his older brother Matt–and the attraction between Annie and Jere starts out very differently too. (This is just a personal note to Miranda in case she reads this review: GIRL. That early running scene with Jere and Annie–YOU KNOW THE ONE. Good Lord. HOT.)
What’s great about Jere and Annie is that there is this rather explosive, intense attraction right from the start but then they both take a step back (wisely if not frustratingly so!) and decide to slow down. They become friends–and it made their romance all the better in the end. Suffice to say, I am a fan of this couple and I love how they balanced each other and brought the best out in each other.
I also liked that even though he’s gone by the time this book begins, readers do get a chance to get to know Kyle through Annie’s flashbacks and memories. It helps us understand what’s going on in her head, why she’s doing what’s she’s doing and why she’s feeling what she’s feeling. I love when a writer can take a character who isn’t physically present in the book but flesh him out so thoroughly that it feels as if he is.
There are some side plots as well, Annie’s strained relationship with her mom and her former best friend Kelsey are two. I also loved that this is the first of Miranda’s books since Things I Can’t Forget that takes place post high school–and it’s the first that features a college setting. I love college settings–some of my best memories are from this period of my life–I hope Miranda decides to explore this part of a young adult’s life even more in future books.
To sum it all up: another win for Miranda Kenneally. Her amazing, relatable authentic characters are back, the swoon (this one is steamy, you guys!) is back, as are the fantastic themes of self discovery, identity and self forgiveness. Miranda continues to do what she does best–write highly entertaining and thought-provoking contemporary young adult books– I for one hope she never stops.