Published:30th July 2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Format: Paperback courtesy of the publisher
Hendrix’s father has a vision – to see Hendrix run for Australia at the Olympics. His days are completely mapped out – what he eats, when he trains, when he sleeps, even the air he breathes.
There was never room in that vision for a girl, especially in the lead-up to the Nationals. Yet fate works in funny ways, and when Hendrix literally bowls Emily over on a training run, he just can’t get her out of his head. His life and priorities take a turn as he falls for her.
But Emily has a deadly secret that she’s scared to share even with Hendrix. As their bond grows and Hendrix strays further from his father’s strict regime, the tension builds to a heart-wrenching climax.
Just Breathe is a poignant coming of age story about taking every chance and opportunity that comes your way in life. For many of us, it’s a story that will feel familiar in some ways, but it doesn’t read cliché. In fact, Andrew Daddo has written an astounding beautiful narrative full of heart and soul that I dare anyone to remain unmoved by.
Hendrix and Emily are worlds apart. Every minute of Hendrix’s life is devoted to one purpose, racing smarter and faster so that he can one day achieve his dream to represent Australia in the Olympics. Emily, on the other hand, lives each day in fear of the next. She races daily from headaches and fears of the unknown, waiting for the day the other shoe drops and the world around her comes crashing down. Unlike Hendrix however, that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her teenage years though, and she lives each day as it comes, for she never knows if it may be her last.
Emily, a country girl at heart, is literally bowled over by city boy Hendrix in mishap on the streets. Pissed off and protective of her pup, Emily snaps at him, marking her memory forever in Hendrix’s mind. What follows, is an intense connection as two world’s collide, from hormonal teens, to family complications and life restrictions, these pair are now their own life raft in a world full of rough seas and its up to them to see if they can surface again.
I loved the subtle character growth both Emily and Hendrix endure within this novel. Both characters are snarky, snappy, typical teens at the beginning, and yet by midway, we can see the adults they will become. It’s kind of rare insight to witness this growth, that usual passes by unseen in real life, all of which makes this book that more incredible.
If you are looking for a big Hollywood YA Novel, Just Breathe, is not the book for you. It’s a contemporary novel about living in Melbourne and dealing with teenage, and bigger than teenage, issues of today. It’s a book with a special blend of heart and soul and authenticity, but one that is also uniquely Australian in feel, but universal in appeal.
Just Breathe is a superbly written book. Daddo’s writing is fluid and spectacular to behold. His imagery is crystal clear and his characters, their feelings and emotional journey’s are larger than life. Most importantly however, while this story of hardship and finding who out you are no matter the cost is one that has been written time and time again, Daddo has managed to write a marvellous narrative that captures the essence and heart of being young and in love, of having the entire world ahead of you and feeling caught and suffocated by it all at once. It’s a story that has a whole lot of heart, is raw in parts and is meant to keep you on you toes. It’s a story for the ages.
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