by Lurlene McDaniel
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Reading level: YA
Travis Morrison is a talented diver, the star of his high school's team. One day at the lake, he takes a dive into the water and ends up in incredible pain. He thinks maybe he's broken his leg, but the diagnosis is far worse. Travis has cancer.
After surgery and rounds of chemotherapy, Travis is still losing his battle. He decides to take matters into his own hands, to take control of his own life. But to do that, he'll need help. Will anyone be willing to grant an unimaginable request?
Warning: spoilers in this review
When I was a teenager, a lot of kids were reading Lurlene McDaniel books. I don't think I ever read any at that time; she was just "that author who wrote about death", and I wasn't really into that. Years later, I was attracted to the cover of Breathless, as well as its short length, so I decided to give this author's books a try. But if Breathless is indicative of the style of these books, I don't think I'll be reading any more of them.
My main complaint is that it was a stereotypical story populated by clichéd characters who were all too similar in voice to make the switching points of view effective (or easy to keep track of). The main character is Travis, who basically has things happen to him for the whole story. His younger sister, Emily, is an über-religious teen who spends much of the story going to church to light candles and pray to God for her brother's healing (with predictably ineffective results). His best friend, Cooper, is trailer trash with an alcoholic prostitute mother. He always seems to have a beer in his hand, even when he's hanging out at Travis's house (presumably right under Travis's overprotective parents' noses). Travis's girlfriend, Darla, is the tired cliché of a battered woman, and even though she gets after her mother for letting her father beat them up, she still uses the same old "I walked into a door" line to explain her facial bruises.
As a result of all the blatant stereotypes, I couldn't really connect with any of the characters. And Travis's mother, in particular, infuriated me. That may have been the intent of the author, but the mother's character seemed to be written the way she was just to create complications in the story. I didn't find it realistic that someone who actually worked as a nurse (and had probably seen such cancer scenarios play out before) would be so callous and selfish as to refuse her 18-year-old son a DNR and want to keep him hooked up to machines indefinitely like some awful science experiment, completely ignoring his wishes or his quality of life... even if he was her son. The parents were in a terrible state of denial about Travis's cancer. By the end of the story, he was missing a leg, his kidneys were toast, he'd had a paralyzing stroke, and his parents were still trying to keep him "alive".
Overall, I found Breathless to be uninteresting and unoriginal. The twist in the very last chapter seemed to come out of nowhere, and was somewhat inconsistent from a character point of view. The only thing I liked was that the book was short, so I didn't have to waste too much time on it.
Overall: 2.43 out of 5