'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 17 August 2019

Review: Just Breathe

In Andrew Daddo’s brilliant novel of youth, its sorrows and its awakenings, the two main characters stand out like beacons in the dark.

It opens with separate chapters that introduce Emily and Hendrix - called Drix for short, and a view into their family lives and backgrounds. The two characters come together and it is around them that the story is built.

Drix is a sixteen year old boy living with his father, a control freak who has designed his son’s running career in minute detail with a goal to win the Nationals. 

Every free moment, what he eats, when he sleeps, how he trains, and every other detail of his life is listed for Drix to follow. The boy has followed this regime diligently without question until he meets Emily and everything changes.

Emily leaves Benalla for Melbourne with her mother to have a benign growth at the base of her skull investigated and monitored. A six month stay is what the specialist recommends and they are accommodated at her Aunt Astrid’s house.

When the headaches get worse, there are few options as the now living tumour is inoperable due to its position. Chemotherapy begins as Emily starts to seriously think about the fragility of her life.

Emily’s new puppy Lucky becomes a temporary distraction from the worry and effects of her treatment. This pup literally brings Drix by accident, into Emily’s life.

A tentative friendship quickly escalates into something more. A love story begins. Emily’s time is running out. She longs to experience what she knows she could miss out on if the tumour has its way.

As the two plan a night together, a great deal of shifty planning takes place while the story builds to a defining and shattering climax.  

The pivotal theme - control in one form or another, shows how parents often take command of their children’s lives with loving intent, but goes on to reveal that to listen and ask can be more effective than emotional manipulation.

Sizzling prose in a well-crafted and beautifully designed storyline keeps the reader engaged throughout the book. The use of language here is impressive, with metaphor and allusion giving the reader food for thought about how the use of language can also be manipulated to create atmosphere and tension in a story.
Title: Just Breathe
Author: Andrew Daddo
Publisher: Penguin, $17.99
Publication Date: July 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780143573623
For ages: 13+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction