Guest review: Breathless by Lurlene McDaniel, written by rameau

Hello everybody, I have a treat for you today.
Please welcome very warmly rameau, who kindly agreed to
publish her last review on my blog. Her reviews might be also found on other blogs and on Goodreads of course. In my humble opinion they are definitely worth reading.

Ok, let me present the book in question:

Target group: YA and older people as well (approximately 12+)
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 165 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 038573459X

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
What is the toughest request anyone can be asked to fulfill?
Travis Morrison is a champion diver and one of the most popular kids at school. On the first day of summer vacation, while boating on the lake with his friends, Travis attempts a silly stunt dive that goes wrong. He fears he has broken his leg. Instead, his trip to the hospital reveals he has a rare form of cancer, and to save him, the doctors tell his parents they must amputate. In an instant, Travis’s life and the lives of everyone around him are forever changed. 

Travis is determined that he and only he should decide the course of his life. He has a plan, but he can’t carry it out alone. Will he convince one of his friends to fulfill his most important request? 

Lurlene McDaniel tackles a controversial subject, probing the issues of personal choice and quality of life.

This is how I think about my life: Before I got sick, endless possibilities. After? No possibilities.

Travis has his whole life ahead of him, then he doesn’t. A broken leg starts a vicious cycle of hospitalisation, out patient treatment, pain, medication, remission, and relapse. Pain changes him. It changes the people around him. It changes everything.

There’s a lovely author’s note in the beginning to warn those who find the word euthanasia a trigger. I for one would have loved to read this story without knowing the outcome. I would have liked to have been brought to the conclusion silently, surreptitiously. I would have liked to have been convinced despite my reluctance. 

I guess that’s the problem. I never was reluctant. I can understand wanting pain to end, wanting to choose that moment for themselves, I can understand choosing dignity. I was a convert, before the preaching started. 

That just leaves the delivery itself for me judge. 

McDaniel chose four alternating first person present voices to tell this story. I can see why she would want to make the voices and feelings of Travis’ sister, girlfriend, and best friend as strong as his. His illness doesn’t just concern him, it affects everyone around him differently. I can also understand—now that I’ve read the ending—why the author would want to fade away all differences between those different voices, but it doesn’t help when I’m in the middle of the story and have to turn back pages just to see and remember who is talking. Was it Travis or Emily talking to Darla? The girls are talking about Travis but is this his sister or girlfriend? So, yes, I can understand the value of the ambiguity. I just hate when it’s used to justify gimmicks. 

This also might be part of the preaching to the choir effect, but I didn’t find the storytelling particularly poignant. The closest I came to tears was when Coop casually accepted his lot in life, not when Travis was ready call it quits. 


Thanks a lot, rameau, it was my pleasure! Now what do you think of the subject matter of this one? I found it difficult but interesting.

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9 Responses to Guest review: Breathless by Lurlene McDaniel, written by rameau

  1. A very hard subject to tackle. I can see how you didn't care for the execution but did like the subject matter.This is how I think about my life: Before I got sick, endless possibilities. After? No possibilities.This was the perfect quote. I think you picked it so well. I think that by itself speaks volumes.Great review!

  2. Anachronist says:

    Brilliant review – I have so much to learn! Thanks, rameau for being my guest!

  3. I love the idea of this one, but I, too, really prefer to be led silently toward a conclusion, rather than told outright how to feel. Great review 🙂

  4. Great review. I would've been disappointed to read about the conclusion without being allowed to form my own opinion on the subject. Excellent review.

  5. Blodeuedd says:

    Nice to see you here Rameau (forgot how to spell it, I should shorten it like I did with Ana's name in the beginning 😉

  6. What a weighty subject for YA fiction but better than another love triangle. And it is good; we shouldn't shy away fom these difficult topics with teens. Sounds like a good book and a good review!

  7. rameau says:

    First of all, my thanks to Ana who thought this was good enough for review for reposting. Secondly…Melissa (Books and Things), that one quote stood out to me the most. It encompassed everything the book was trying to say, but I felt that it ultimately failed to do. Melissa (i swim for oceans), I can understand the need to warn people, but since I hadn't seen the word euthanasia anywhere, I had just assumed that it would be about death. It was like the author pulling the rug under my feet before I ever got to tread on it. That note essentially undermined her own message.Lenasledgeblog, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. Blodeuedd, or Milady, which is easier for me to remember. Ram works too if the French word is too difficult to remember for you. Nice to see you too.The Red Witch, it is that, a weighty subject. And it shouldn't be something why shy away from. I feel it's important young adults get the chance to be exposed to these ideas and aren't coddled to the point where their parents or guardians do their thinking for them. A well written book should be the best way to achieve that, I think.I've since watched a film that is very close to this subject and that I felt succeeded better in what Lurlene McDaniel tried to do, and that film was called Third Star with Benedict Cumberbatch and JJ Feild. If you have a chance and if you're interested, try watching that instead.

  8. Anachronist says:

    Third Star…I want to watch it now. I will try to find it on the Internet or borrow it.

  9. I find the topic intriguing, albeit sad. Although, I get it. Definitely a difficult topic to tackle. I do feel the note in the beginning would have been upsetting, though. Plus, it's hard to tackle 4 narrators and it doesn't sound like this one hit it. Too bad.

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