I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I picked up Hold Me Like A Breath, and it took me a long time to decide I did like this story of a physically weak female in a brutally violent world, but by the end, I was so sold. This is certainly something different from the long list of books featuring impossibly tough female protagonists, but realism does have its perks.
Seventeen year old Penelope lives within the guilded cage built by the money from her family’s dealings in the black market organ transplant business. It isn’t just the guards and gates that keep her inside. A severe blood disorder guarantees that she is coddled and protected in a thick layer of cautious air kisses and soft padded spaces. She dreams of being free, but when she finally escapes, it is in a hail of gunfire brought on by a rival family. Left to find her way in a world she has never been prepared for, Penelope will learn what it means to live, to love, to lose, and to survive. While I expected Penelope to be a really strong female protagonist, someone who seizes power and respect, she just wasn’t that girl. That was okay with me. We can’t all be Katniss, and the strength that Penelope has is more realistic for the average reader to aspire towards – grit. She is absolutely knocked on her tail many times in this story, and her blood disorder forces her to admit her weakness isn’t just an underestimation of her abilities by the patriarchical structure of society. She really doesn’t know how to navigate a world were every friend has become a suspected enemy, and neither does the reader who sees everything through her perspective which creates a lot of anticipation and suspense. I really had a hard time putting this book down once the action started, and the line in the summary about betrayal had me wrapped in knots because I knew it was coming, but I just didn’t know who or where it would come from. The romance in this story was sweet and gently romantic. Penelope has all the longings any teen girl will relate to, but the author takes the time to develop a companionship between her characters, and if the love that grows from it felt a little rushed, it can be explained by the rocky and bruising circumstances. Readers who recognize this as fairy tale realism will be quite pleased with the mix of human limitations and romantic idealizations. I tried not to ruin the inspiration for this story (one I didn’t pick up on until I read the author’s notes) — it was such an Ohhh! moment, and I think others will enjoy it as well if they can wait that long to peek. This is the first in the “Once Upon A Crime Family” series, and I will certainly be looking for the next.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.