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Breathe My Name (2007)

by R. A. Nelson

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22410120,370 (3.99)3
Since her adoption, seventeen-year-old Frances has lived a quiet suburban life, but soon after she begins falling for the new boy at school, she receives a summons from her birth mother, who has just been released after serving eleven years for smothering Frances's younger sisters.
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I read this ten years ago or something. I'd previously read "Teach Me," about a high school teacher preying on one of his students but it's from her POV and portrayed as totes okay guys, since she turns eighteen. I didn't make the connection that the two works were written by the same author at all, and was surprised when I figured it out, all those years ago. I was surprised all over again when I saw it now, on my goodreads feed. "Oh, that book. Oh, and it's that author? Hm. Gonna read it!" I was glued to the book back then, and I thought it was a great portrayal of all the issues it presented. Now...I have a lot more life experience and am a more critical reader. On second read, all these years later, this book is boring and melodramatic as shit. The characters are woefully underdeveloped, there's little to no plot, the flashbacks are useless and take up half the novel, Nelson can't convincingly write children, and there's a nonverbal autistic student in here for no reason. This is a vague character study. It doesn't even approach thriller. One line that was repeated was, "Well, you know Nix." Well, good for you, because I, the reader, do not, so I have no idea why he does things. But you do, so can you explain to me? No. Okay, that's your choice. Character relationships are not earned. There's no connection between anyone. Nelson just dumps quotes and references to off-page stuff in our laps and expects us to buy it. It's not even insta-love, because THERE IS NOTHING SHOWING THAT. NOT EVEN INSTA-LOVE BECAUSE THERE'S NOTHINGGGG. Had to state it twice, since it's true and anyway, this book -loves- stating things multiple times like it somehow showed it all beforehand. There's no showing, barely any telling, and I was unhappy.

This book purports to tackle the serious issue of a rare, severe, and severely misunderstood mental illness: post-partum psychosis. The teen's mother has it, and has been sick for a very long time. Originally I called bullshit, but I checked out a memoir from a woman who has it, too. The book is called "Inferno" by Catherine Cho and it explains the disease much more thoroughly. The memoir treats such a serious issue with fucking respect, and it's not a cheap, stupid plot device in an already boring book that is about nothing. No. Someone who -actually- experienced this illness talks at length about her family, her husband, his family, their backgrounds, HER CHILD, and how the illness manifested. She talks a lot about the mental hospital she's in long-term. I looked up the book and got into an interview that talked about her future. I was fascinated and felt vicariously hopeful.

This book has NONE of that. Take out the psychosis mom in this book, and just say, "my siblings died in a car accident where my mom was drunk," and this would already be a much better, more interesting, more realistic, more respectful fictional account. Mental illness is not a thriller plot point, Nelson, you moron. It's a very real issue that affects a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. The only thing this book got semi-right was that the psychotic mom was in a halfway house but--to still need to be in a halfway house ten years after murdering three toddlers? Do her psychiatrists just not care? Did I miss something? OH WAIT, NELSON LIKELY DIDN'T DO ANY RESEARCH. Seriously, dude. Sit down with psychiatrists, read forums...visit a hospital if you need to if you're going to write about something like this! Skip this book and read Catherine Cho's memoir instead. ( )
  iszevthere | Jul 27, 2022 |
I really enjoyed this book. The front cover is very effective creating the, often creepy, feel of the story. Throughout the book reference is made to Frances' constant fears and how they affect her breathing . I also like how the chapters alternate between Frances' life at 18 back to her memories of when she was a child living with her mother and younger sisters. This book is a chilly little thriller but is spoiled by the ending. I thought it was rather weak with everything being too neatly resolved. However, overall a great story dealing with mental illness and traumatic pasts. ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jan 23, 2016 |
Adopted teen might be confronted by the birth mom who killed her siblings. ( )
  sheldonhs | Feb 18, 2010 |
Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

Frances Robinson's story has a lot in common with several news stories in recent years. Eleven years ago, her biological mother smothered her three younger sisters, and if it hadn't been for the arrival of a total stranger, Frances might have been next.

BREATHE MY NAME picks up when Frances is eighteen and a junior in high school. She lives with her loving adoptive parents in a nice home in a nice town. She is relatively happy, but things are about to change.

First, Frances meets Nix, a new student who just moved from New Orleans. He's a bit different but strangely fascinating. As lab partners, they begin to get to know each other and share stories. But there's a story Frances can't seem to share - the story of her mother and her sisters. How do you tell someone you care about something like that?

The other change for Frances comes in the form of a letter delivered by a special messenger. It appears to be from her mother, who has been locked up for the past eleven years. She is about to be released to a group home and seems to be requesting to meet with Frances.

R. A. Nelson's BREATHE MY NAME tells the amazing story of a young girl trying to come to grips with her past and decide how to move on with the future. Readers will find themselves pulled into the lives on the pages and carried along the sometimes frightening and bumpy ride as Frances takes control of her own destiny. This book is well worth reading. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 10, 2009 |
BREATHE MY NAME is an amazing psychological thriller with intriguing characters and several plot twists. It kept me turning pages until the very end. ( )
  janetirene | Aug 8, 2009 |
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Today the blackbirds are watching us from the power line.
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Since her adoption, seventeen-year-old Frances has lived a quiet suburban life, but soon after she begins falling for the new boy at school, she receives a summons from her birth mother, who has just been released after serving eleven years for smothering Frances's younger sisters.

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