Blog Tour: Only a Breath Apart

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Published 22 Jan, Tor Teen, 359 pages, £8.27

Katie McGarry brings another tale full of grit and heart. All her books have a raw, face-your-demons edge, but Only a Breath Apart takes a slightly darker path. It is filled with the ache of haunting memories, domestic abuse and the shadow of murder. At the centre is the significance of land and human bonds.

We start with Jesse, who is grieving the death of his beloved grandma. He has been brought up to believe that his family is cursed. Nothing but melancholia and disaster has befallen each family member, especially his mother. When he discovers that, in order to inherit his land, he must win the approval of an old childhood friend, he feels certain that he is doomed. His past has come to bite back. On the other end is Scarlett, imprisoned by her dominating father and bursting to come out of the icy shell she has formed to protect herself. When she runs into Jesse, the boy who used to be everything to her, she can feel that her control is going to crack for better or worse. Read an excerpt below and in my last post.

McGarry has long been one of my favourite YA writers. Her work has found a way to make my soul feel both ravaged and warmed (Walk the Edge I still listen on audiobook on loop). As described, Only a Breath Apart, is darker but not as forlorn as I may have outlined in the plot. It carries a strong hopeful tone with fierce characters that fight for the next sunrise. Jesse and Scarlett claw tooth and nail for their independence, whilst trying to figure out the depth of their attraction to each other (McGarry scores again with another dynamic couple). Scarlett’s situation, in particular, exposes the sinister extent of domestic instability and its manipulation of security and control. I love the supernatural theme that carries throughout, circling around anxieties about the future, the afterlife and the role of destinies. Some parts of the story lingered a little too long on the over-riding message about land and relationships. Overall, it will sweep you into McGarry’s world of rural dust-bitten America and teen love.

Thank you Tor Teen for my copy! xxx

*EXCERPT*

~SCARLETT~

“I thought you said you were meeting Camila.”

I jump at the sound of Dad’s voice and spin in his direction. “I am.”

Dad studies me, and I hide my hands behind my back to conceal the slight quiver that could announce my guilt. When I left him, he was in good spirits, but his moods can quickly shift. There are two patched up holes in my bedroom that can testify to this. Dad replaced the drywall, covered it with fresh paint, but the perfection can’t take away the memory of the way my heart pounded through my chest as he drove his fist through the wall.

He inclines his head toward the booth of balloon animals. “Camila appears to be working.”

“She’s getting off soon,” I say too fast as I bite back the need to ask why he didn’t go home like he said he was.

“Why did you leave us if she’s still working? You said Camila would be done by five-thirty.”

My mouth dries out, and the tremble in my hands travels to the rest of my body, but I force out a cleansing breath. Show no fear. Don’t give him any reason to doubt a thing I say. “She was supposed to be off by now, but her parents asked her to work a few more minutes.”

“If Camila isn’t getting off until later, you should have told me,” There’s a subtle sharpness to his tone that causes hurricane warnings in my brain. “I was showing you a great deal of trust by letting you find Camila on your own.”

“She’s only running a few minutes late. Her parents are watching me so I’m okay.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I glance over and my heart lifts when I notice Camila’s mom watching us. Her stare gives credibility to every falsehood rolling off my tongue. She’s not watching because she thinks I need a babysitter, but probably because she’s mentioned to Camila that she’s perplexed by my father’s strict rules.

I touch the crystals on the table as if I’m interested in them. It’s difficult to act normal as Dad looks at Camila’s mom then studies me. Please believe me, please believe me. Please.

I’m so stupid. I should have never left Dad early. I should have never lied. But I did. Dad was having fun at the fair, Mom was having fun and my sister, Isabelle, was having fun. They were all laughing and smiling. They’ve forgiven him, and I haven’t. I can’t, not again, and this is one of the many ways life is no longer simple.

I want to peek at him in an attempt to understand my fate, but I don’t. Eye contact doesn’t help when he’s angry. It only makes it worse.

Being in public won’t soothe his temper. He’ll just be more discreet. Like last year when Dad had arrived early to pick me up at a football game and saw me heading to the bathroom by myself. After I had returned to my friends, he called me away with a smile on his face. He had placed a seemingly loving arm around my shoulder, but his fingers dug into my arm as he severely whispered in my ear how I was irresponsible and that it was time to go home.

Dad didn’t cause a scene at the game. The yelling started the moment we were alone in his car and continued until he left me in my room. I stayed on my bed for hours, curled up in a ball and sobbing.

My throat swells as I think of how this will play out. Will it be like Christmas? Will he throw a lamp and force Mom to clean it up as I watch? Or will it be like this past spring and he’ll flip the kitchen table, breaking all the dishes that had been placed there for dinner?

Dad steps closer to me, and I’m filled with dread. “Next time, in a situation like this, you return to me and have Camila text you when she’s done working. I don’t like the idea of you being alone.”

All I want is to be alone, for my thoughts and actions to belong only to me. But he’s not angry, he’s believing me, and I release a breath I had unknowingly held and take the small win.

 

Would you dare to defy destiny? Are our destinies written in stone? Do we become nothing more than the self-fulfilling prophesies of other people’s opinions? Or can we dare to become who we believe we were born to be?

“A gorgeous, heartfelt journey of redemption and love” (Wendy Higgins), ONLY A BREATH APART is a young adult contemporary novel from critically acclaimed Katie McGarry. “Haunting, authentic, and ultimately hopeful” (Tammara Webber), order your copy of ONLY A BREATH APART now!

 

About ONLY A BREATH APART:

They say your destiny is carved in stone. But some destinies are meant to be broken.

The only curse Jesse Lachlin believes in is his grandmother’s will: in order to inherit his family farm he must win the approval of his childhood best friend, the girl he froze out his freshman year.

A fortuneteller tells Scarlett she’s psychic, but what is real is Scarlett’s father’s controlling attitude and the dark secrets at home. She may be able to escape, but only if she can rely on the one boy who broke her heart.

Each midnight meeting pushes Jesse and Scarlett to confront their secrets and their feelings, but as love blooms, the curse rears its ugly head…

 

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Gritty and real, Only a Breath Apart is a story of hope conjured from pain, strength drawn from innocence, and love earned from self-respect. Beautiful, poignant, and fierce.”
―Kristen Simmons, critically acclaimed author of the Article 5 series


 

Add it to your Goodreads today!

 

 

 

Katie McGarry Bio:

Katie is the author of the PUSHING THE LIMITS series, THUNDER ROAD series, SAY YOU’LL REMEMBER ME, and the upcoming YA novel, ONLY A BREATH APART. Her novels have received starred reviews, critical acclaim and have won multiple awards including being a multiple Goodreads Choice Award Finalist for YA Fiction, multiple RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Award Finalist for Best YA Fiction, including a win in the category, and she was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick.

 

 

 

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Say You’ll Remember Me by Katie McGarry

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Published HQ YA, 30th Jan 2018, 464 pages, £3.99

A great read, but unfortunately not the most powerful of Katie McGarry stories. Walk The Edge  still remains for me the most intense and romantic. Say You’ll… is about a privileged but stifled governor’s daughter and an alleged convict on a government rehab scheme. Drix was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The time he spent away was still a reality check for the reckless lifestyle he led and when he was chosen to take part in the governor’s ‘Second Chance’ program, it seemed like an opportunity to get his act together concerning school and family. The program aims to keep young offenders from returning to crime and reintegrate back into society, as well as providing publicity for the governor’s campaign trail. His daughter, Elle faces constant pressure to be the perfect politician’s daughter, in the way she acts, looks and creepily who she might be dating. Everything is planned, cultivated and controlled. This leaves little room for exploring her identity and interests, especially if she has been raised to do what she is best at rather than what makes her happy.

The whiff of Drix and Elle’s instant attraction is caught immediately by Elle’s parents, who make it clear that Drix is completely off the radar; especially if it indicates her father’s program being tainted with bias. Likewise, Drix is fully aware that getting involved with the governor’s daughter, a man who has given him the only lifeline he has had in many years, is the worst first step he can make.

I really wanted to be swept up in this story. There is plenty of feisty flirting, but the dialogue carried on longer than it needed. There was a lot of sentimental and motivational talk, but repeated and continued rather than amounting to action. This novel taps into many interesting topics such as controlled and abusive relationships, double standards in politics and rehabilitation programs. There is also the mystery of who actually committed the crime, resulting in an action packed struggle at the end.  However, I just didn’t latch on as I normally would for a McGarry instalment, maybe just needed more punch and heat rather than emotion. I will of course keep reading and I can’t wait for the story, be it in this series or a Thunder Road (please!) one.

XX

 

 

 

Dare You To by Katie McGarry (Pushing The Limits #2)

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Published by May 2013, Harlequin Teen, 456 pages, £3.49

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Before embarking on an 11 hour flight across the world, I knew I needed a Katie McGarry. Everything she writes somehow both soothes and excites me. Pushing the Limits, the first in this series was great, full of crackling chemistry and drama. I would recommend reading this book first as it contains the characters’ history, which isn’t completely essential, but boosts the engagement.

This story follows Beth, another girl from the wrong side of town (Check out Red At Night). All she has known since she was a child was to protect her mother from everything.. drugs, a violent boyfriend and prison. Growing up with unsavoury characters, she has learnt to be tough as nails and sharp as a whip in order to survive. Her character jumped out at me with her dialogue ringing out loud and clear. Her vulnerability and strength also felt raw.

As problems spiral out of control, Beth is forced to move away with her uncle who makes it his mission to reform her. Scared for her mother, separated from her best friends and attending the local ‘hick’ high school, she experiences her worst nightmare. Despite this, she finds herself drawn to the most stereo-typical guy she should avoid, golden boy jock Ryan. He is your average High School Musical star, but with baseball and a bit more muscle. On track to play pro, the cracks in his perfect life start to inch further into the book; a domineering father, a depressed mother and an estranged brother. What starts off as a dare to ask out scary skater girl, leads to deep attraction and mutual understanding. This romance started off quite slow with a lot of back tracking, which made the book longer than necessary. I was impressed with the shift in Ryan’s character, who started off as an macho airhead.

Beth and Ryan have to face a lot of courage to make their relationship a reality. They have to face abilities that have been suppressed or forgotten. For Beth it’s trust, while for Ryan it’s rebellion.

Happy to continue my journey through the series..

XXX

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

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Published by Walker, April 2017, 436 pages, £2.00

This is an outstanding debut novel, young adult story and a contemporary peep hole into the thorny topic of race in America. I loved every word of it and slowed down my reading pace to stall its ending. It’s also a very ‘now’ book, like Melissa de la Cruz’s Something in Between which is about immigration and identity in the eyes of a high schooler, published just before Trump’s rise to power. I was half way through ‘The Hate…’ when I heard news of the Charlottesville rally. However, that doesn’t mean it should be read just because of its current-ness. What strikes the reader is the stubborn timelessness of prejudice and corrupted politics. There is however, a sense of hope that change is still possible, even if it’s slow and painful.

Sixteen-year-old Starr witnesses her childhood friend being shot by a police officer for no real reason. And just like that her life is turned upside down. Raised in a rundown community, known for crime and gang warfare, she attends a private school on the privileged side of town. After the incident, Starr is exposed to the harsh division of her two worlds. As the case builds up and goes public, injustices and ugliness are dragged to the fore. Attitudes remain infuriatingly fixed, refusing to budge. As the sole witness, the pressure and responsibility rests upon Starr’s young shoulder to set the score.

‘The Hate U Give’ also stands for THUG, which is taken from the rapper Tupac’s lyrics: ‘Thug life: the hate you give to infants f*** everybody’, a nod to the author’s musical past. The seed of hate fosters fear and even more hate, like an endless circle with no progress for anyone. Starr is made to realise how she had succumbed to acting and talking different at her school. The fear of being stereo-typed as ‘ghetto’ or ‘angry black girl’, caused her to iron out her identity. This is something I understood as an ‘ethnic minority’- the desire to down play your race and to blend in.

Despite the seriousness of the topics, Thomas manages to keep the novel strictly teen with talk about fashion and sports, as well as a cute romance. Most of the plot is centred around an exciting build-up as the readers wait to see whether Starr will speak out. However, there were some slow parts which I believe is intended as relief from the heavy subjects.

We need more books like this.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Published by St. Martin’s Press, September 2013, 481 pages, £1.19

What started as a light-hearted story about a young woman’s first days at Uni quickly evolved as a thoughtful tale about mental health. Do not be fooled by the cutesy cover. While it is upbeat and quirky, it moves into darker corners of everyday life.

Cath lives and breathes fandom. She and her twin sister Wren devoured a children’s fantasy series called Simon Snow. They wrote wreathes of fanfiction, hung out in forums and went to late night book releases. Their obsession grew at the same time their mother had left them. In that sense it was not so much a craze but a way to cope. For Cath, it was not only the option to live in someone else’s world, but to have their words become yours. In writing fanfiction, she ensured that the story that comforted her during the painful separation, never ends. This is a notion that really hit home. Cath takes comfort-zone to a whole new level.

As the sisters head off to college, Wren is keen to become independent and live apart. So Cath is faced with a terrifying new life, away from a once inseparable twin and a father who also never fully recovered from the family trauma. We soon realize that this is more than your usual freshmen jitters. Cath has trouble engaging with new environments and people, preferring to almost starve than ask where the food hall is. A big bulk of the novel focuses on how she navigates through this, with the help of some zesty characters and a cute farm boy. This is when the plot slows a little, but the author easily maintains a constant liveliness to the story.

Cath is a very sweet character and I imagine she speaks to many types of ‘fangirls’. We all understand how special certain books are, their characters, worlds and most importantly their words. We root for Cath to grow in confidence and independence, not so she can cast away her past but so she can finally create her own stories.

xxx

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Published by Penguin, 1 June 2017, 368 pages, £5.99

4 stars

Penguin cleverly sent around press releases daring me NOT to like this book. They boldly claimed that there was not a single reader who disliked the book. So of course I had to accept the challenge, even though I knew it was a marketing bait. I knew that my weakness for high school murder mysteries (a la Pretty Little Liars) will guarantee a base interest. This novel has a bit of everything, intense sleuthing, teen drama and romance. Its attempts to handle darker elements like death and mental illness might be its one flaw.

This is one of the most exciting YA books I have read so far. Five different characters collide in one detention session, all with secrets. Like those who didn’t grow up in the American school system, I have a fondness for their (damaging) stereotypes: the brain, beauty queen, jock, drop-out and outcast. None of these students know why they had detention and at the end of it, Simon the outcast is dead. The rest of the group become suspects. With each day the police are increasingly determined to bring them down. And get this, Simon’s gossip blog continues to post, the topic being the famous four and their secrets. So who is determined to ruin their lives, some elusive stranger or one of them?

If I do say so myself, I had started to get an inkling of who the culprit was. But I do applaud the many twists and turns the plot leads you down. Despite their different worlds, the characters bond with motivating results. They shed their stereotype shells, help each other’s problems and embrace their real selves. There are transformations, society challenges and an additive unlikely romance. However, the story navigates shakily with the topic of depression. The illness was clumsily explained for the rage and revenge that fueled death. But I think the author means to highlight it as a condition partly caused by the school cliques and separations (ones that we in turn find so appealing) in which the main characters ultimately take apart.

Many thanks to Penguin for my review copy xxx

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

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Published by Mira Ink 2012, 395 pages, £3.49

4.5 stars

It’s been a Katie McGarry week and I never want it to end. Thankfully, there are about five more (plus a novella) in this Pushing the Limits series. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to start it. The drama, passion and fiery energy the author brings to her characters warms me from each page. Unlike the Thunder Road series, there are no biker gangs, but focuses on domestic drama, bereavement and mental illness.

Echo and Noah are from two ends of the social spectrum (McGarry is at her best with opposite attraction). Echo was once popular girl, dance team member and on track for an art scholarship. But after the death of her older brother and a traumatic episode involving her mother, she becomes withdrawn and distant from everyone, hiding her inner and outer scars. She is also repressed by her controlling father and his new wife, who was embarrassingly her childhood babysitter.

Noah is the labeled ‘dodgy’ boy who sits at the back of class and lunch, involved with violence, drugs and hook-ups. After the death of his parents and the painful separation from his younger brothers, he has been through the mill of abusive foster care. He is someone who has given up on trust, especially from authority figures, and fights tooth and nail to get his brothers back. Both Echo and Noah’s days are filled with anger and silence. When a guidance councilor brings them together, their initial impression of each other- impressions created by gossip and stereotyping, gradually sift away to make room for their consuming attraction.

Their romance is so fierce, but the wounds from their problems are so raw, McGarry creates an exiting struggle of wanting and never wanting to be the characters. The plot is driven by the mystery of Echo’s memory, as she fails to remember the detail of her trauma. Echo’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder and she fears that she will also loose control and be accused of ‘craziness’. The story deals with the lack of understanding mental illnesses and how it is dealt with. As Echo’s memory comes back in fearful shards, she tries to loosen her father’s safety grips, while Noah does battle with society to reclaim his brothers. Everybody’s limits are tested as the characters challenge those that restrict them as well as pushing their inner scars to extremes. Long at times, the novel was an addictive whirlwind of fatal build-ups and made me look forward to my train journey after a trying day at work.

xxx