Review: Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan


After finishing the final book in the Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan, Out of Breath, I think it is high time that I review the series. I decided to do a joint review of the three books but first you can check the Goodreads blurbs of each book. 

Goodreads blurb

"No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?"

In the affluent town of Weslyn, Connecticut, where most people worry about what to be seen in and who to be seen with, Emma Thomas would rather not be seen at all. She’s more concerned with feigning perfection—pulling down her sleeves to conceal the bruises, not wanting anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is. Without expecting it, she finds love. It challenges her to recognize her own worth―at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she’s desperate to hide.

One girl’s story of life-changing love, unspeakable cruelty, and her precarious grasp of hope: Reason to Breathe is the first installment of the acclaimed Breathing Series.

Goodreads Blurb

Emma’s struggle with an abusive home life came to a heart pounding conclusion in the final chapters of Reason to Breathe. Now everyone in Weslyn knows Emma’s secret, but Carol can’t hurt Emma anymore. Some are still haunted by the horror of that night, and some must face the repercussions of their choices. Fans of Rebecca Donovan’s debut novel will discover there’s still much to learn about Emma’s life.

Goodreads Blurb

Emma 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.

Author: Rebecca Donovan 
Genre: Young to New AdultRomance
Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

My rating for the complete series: 4 stars

My Review

I have to start by saying that I really liked the first two books and it has been an excruciatingly long wait for the third one which came out on 2 July 2013. Based on Reason to Breathe and Barely Breathing I had very high hopes and expectations of Out of Breath and it I can say that it fulfilled them to a large extend. 

This series tells the story of Emma's struggle to survive through an unspeakable abuse in the form of domestic violence. Book 1 is a very emotional, somewhat dark and deeply moving story of the journey from merely surviving to trying to live an almost normal life. It is very well written, well paced story of finding a way to deal with the worst possible form of domestic violence.

The story was told from Emma's POV and she had a strong voice even when she is lost. She started on her journey of standing up for herself with the help of her best friend, Sarah and a new boy who came to her school, Evan.

I loved how Emma interacted with the others, and her gradual opening up to the world sounded authentic and convincing. Her relationship with Evan also grew slowly and there was no instalove, something which I highly appreciate.

The book ended with a terrible cliffhanger but I was lucky enough to be able to start Barely Breathing right away so I continued following Emma and Evan's story. Even after escaping the torture in the hands of her aunt, Emma's suffering didn't end. The physical violence was replaced by emotional one on the part of her mother.

On the whole, Barely Breathing provided further development of the main characters (Emma, Evan, Sarah) and new ones were introduced - Emma's mother and Jonathan. He is a very controversial character, yet I sympathized with him. I don't really like the way he was introduced into Emma's life, but his role was important and well placed.

There was some going back and forth in the action in this book. Some things seemed repetitive, especially in the relationship between Emma and her mother.

I have just two words for the ending - heart-breaking! Having to wait more than 6 months to read the next book, was just as painful.

The story in Out of Breath continues two year after the end of Barely Breathing. Neither Emma, nor Evan, had really moved on, despite their efforts to convince themselves and the people around them of the opposite. It is time to come clean and accept the consequences.

I think this book was a fitting ending to the story of Emma and Evan. It was very emotional, filled with angst and pain, but also with forgiveness and acceptance.

Still, I feel that this book wasn't as good as the first two. I like how things turned out in the end both for Emma and for Evan but the journey to get there was too slow and winding at times. I felt overwhelmed with all the new people of Emma's life. There seemed to be too many of them and they all felt the need the take care of her in one way or another. She appeared too weak, lost, unable to cope on her own and I hated that.

I didn't like the way Emma's relationship with Cole was handled. The purely sexual nature of it didn't fit Emma at all. The way he left her life was just too convenient for the plot development but totally unrealistic.

The first half of the book was stronger than the second. I found the final 1/3 of the story most annoying since Emma was going in circles in her thoughts and was really unable to make a decision and carry it through. It took far too long for her to clear completely things with Evan and to accept her actions in the past.

Another major complain I have with this book is the way the dual POV was done. I liked that we were given glimpses of both Emma's and Evan's thoughts but I feel their sections in the storytelling should have been better incorporated. I found myself going back a few times just to make sure whose POV I was reading. 

I like the ending a lot. I concluded the series beautiful bringing the story full circle. The process of redemption was complete and the door to the future was opened. I still would have liked there to have been an epilogue, showing Emma and Evan more settled, but I am happy as it is.

On a final note, I am really excited that Jonathan will be getting his story told in a separate series of books.

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