My rating: 2 of 5 stars
“Today is her sixteenth birthday. In two years she’ll be dead, but she doesn’t know that.”
One of the student-staff tutors I with always asks me about the books I read. When he asked me about The Breathless by Tara Goedjen, I was really at a loss for words, and he looked at me like I a crazy person as I tried to summarize the plot to him. Even though the synopsis on the back of the book sounds interesting, the story was poorly constructed making it hard to explain the book to others. Now that I have finished the whole book, I will try my best to write a short synopsis: A year ago Ro Cole drowned, and the only suspect, her boyfriend Cage, disappeared. With the discovery of a family heirloom by her younger sister, Mae, and the mysterious return of Cage, there may be a way to bring Ro back to life. But first Mea must unlock secrets of her family’s past.
“Lance and Cage were the last two people to see her; they had to know more than they claimed.”
I debated between giving The Breathless by Tara Goedjen 2 or 3 out of 5 stars because I loved the ideas for the story, but unfortunately, it read like a rough draft . Normally when you get to the climax of the story, all the pieces start falling into place. That did not happen with this story. I was left with too many unanswered questions at the end of the novel. If the plot was developed better, I would not have found the story so confusing. SPOILER ALERT: Goedjen could have added a few more chapters explaining the backstory of how Lance was initiated by Ro and what “initiate” even means. It would have also been nice to read a few chapters about what happened to Cage during his accident, who “raised” Cage, and how is Cage related to the Cole family.
Even though the story felt unfinished to me, I still enjoyed Goedjen’s writing and word choice. There were quite a few beautiful lines of writing that I underlined, including a contrasting description of Ro and Mae, “Ro saw the world as her own ocean, ready to be mapped, but Mae saw riptides and currents and whirlpools and knew to be cautious.” I definitely relate more to Mae because I am a worry-wort. Goedjen does a fantastic job of describing everyday experience like memory, “The black door in her mind shook on its hinges. She knew there was something important to remember, but it was gone now. She also used beautiful similes and metaphors throughout the novel, “The house reminds me of stagnant water, yet this girl lives in its depths like some sort of siren, the kind his uncle talks about” and “And then, looking out the window at the crested ground that meets the glass panes like a wave, Cage realizes why the house seems so strange. I feels like a sinking ship.”
I recommend this story to readers who enjoy playing detective while reading. You almost need to take notes while reading so you can piece the story together. Fans of V. C. Andrews will also love the creepy tone and mood of Goedjen’s writing. Again, I really love the ideas behind the story so I hope the publishers decide to spend another year revising this manuscript and publish a second edition.