Alex Dale is a “functioning” alcoholic who has made a mess of every aspect of her life. Her career, marriage and health have greatly suffered over the years because of her excessive drinking and she’s grasping at just about anything to stay afloat. A chance encounter with coma patient, Amy Stevenson, has Alex refocusing the direction of her current freelance article assignment. Alex becomes fixated on Amy and solving her assault fifteen years prior.
The book’s description was enticing. “For fans of Gillian Flynn, Laura Lipman and Paula Hawkins” had me excited to read and review this book. I was prepared to be wowed, but unfortunately, I was not. I’m growing weary and wary of the abundance of literary comparisons lately. These claims are unfair to readers, as well as to authors. For me, Try Not to Breathe just did not deliver on these promises for several reasons.
The author injected some odd, rambling descriptions into her scenes, which I found distracting. “His sort-of-curly, sort-of-straight hair resembled a guinea pig sitting on his head, digging its paws into his face” (I still have no idea what this means) and, “He sat in the other leather chair, but fidgeted like a child with worms” (Stopping at “fidgeted” would have sufficed. Why put the idea of kids with worms in a reader’s head?). The writing isn’t necessarily awful. It’s average at best.
There are several POVs in this book – Amy, Alex, Jacob, and even Jacob’s mother puts in her two cents here and there – but the author is careful to give them each their own chapters, so it was easy to keep track of POV. Yet, each character was as dysfunctional and pathetic as the next and it was difficult to care about any of them. Aside from when reading Amy’s heartbreaking comatose thoughts, I had a difficult time connecting with any of the characters. I especially found it difficult to sympathize with Alex’s character. She came off as a bully who disrupts the lives of people who’ve moved past Amy’s assault fifteen years prior – to the point where she’s threatening to divulge sensitive information to clueless family members unless she gets the info she’s looking for. Yet, she continues to deny being a “hack reporter”.
I figured out who the attacker was about a quarter of the way into the book, so I wasn’t surprised when it all came to light at the end. The ending is a bit out there and unlikely, but the author does mention in the acknowledgments that she’s “used a lot of artistic license in dealing with Amy’s condition” so readers shouldn’t accept it as medical fact.
I hate giving a critical review to any author. The idea for this book was good, but I found the results just weren’t there for me. Would I have been less critical of this book had it not been compared to Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins? I’m honestly not sure. It’s not terrible; it’s just not on par with these authors.
3 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton
eBook Review Gal received a complimentary ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.