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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“So you’re the decision maker now?”
He waits too many beats before speaking or maybe not enough. “I took on this role because, believe it or not, I care. I won’t pretend to understand the pain you’ve gone through, and I won’t pretend to understand your connection to this land. I’ve watched you grow up. I know, for you, this farm is like a Band-Aid on cuts that won’t stop bleeding.”
If that was meant to make me feel better, it didn’t. “You’ll never vote for me. You’re biased.”
“I’m not biased.”
For days I’ve been a stick under pressure, being bent too far. Finally, I snap. “I know you told Gran not to take me in after Mom died and to put me in foster care. You told her I was too broken and couldn’t be fixed. I know because I heard you. Tell me now you’re not biased.”
Guilt flashes over his face, and he tries to hide it as he flips through the folder in his hands. “If it helps, that’s why your grandmother set up the tribunal and chose two other people to help make the decision. Majority vote will win, and she believed you’ll rise to the challenge.”
I’m not sure if I respect him or hate him for not denying what we both know is true regarding the foster care. I’m also not sure how I feel that he doesn’t apologize either.
“She chose people who will give you a fair shake,” he continues. “This isn’t a death sentence. It’s a wakeup call. It’s August, and you have until May to prove you’re responsible. You have time. Take it. Prove me wrong.”
A growing sense of purpose takes root within me, and I do my best to funnel my anger and grief into it. “Who, besides you, is on the tribunal?”
If I tell you then I run the risk of you putting on a show for those people. This is your chance to change for the better. Take advantage of it.” Marshall leaves the paperwork on the antique table, shoves his folder back in his leather bag, and stands. “If it’s any consolation, I want you to succeed, but I want you to truly succeed. I won’t vote for you to keep the land unless you show me you understand what it means to run a farm of this magnitude.”
It’s no consolation. That’s him attempting to ease his guilt for when he votes against me.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Jesse. If you need to talk or if you’d like to stop by for a meal, you’re welcome at my house. And if you get tired of being here alone, you can live with us. We have plenty of room.”
I don’t believe any of that, but I nod because doing so will get him out of my home faster. Marshall stares at me for a few more seconds, as if contemplating saying more, but he doesn’t. Instead he walks out, shutting the door behind him.
His engine purrs to life and rocks crack under his moving tires. Then there’s silence. Maddening silence. I drop into Gran’s recliner, lower my head into my hands and close my eyes. I’ve lost Gran, and now I could lose my land. The only thing left that I love. The only thing in my life that brings me peace. “Why, Gran?”
I strain to listen in the silence, and my gut twists that there’s no response. “I miss you.”
Still no response and my head begins to throb. My cell in my back pocket vibrates. I dig it out, expecting to see a text from one of my friends, but I pop my neck to the right at the sight of Glory’s name. You need to stop by tomorrow night.
Glory: I know of your grandmother’s plan
Me: So do I
Glory: But I know who the people are who will be deciding your future.
Me—stone cold frozen.
Glory: Stop by tomorrow at nine. I should be wrapping up my last session then.
Me: I won’t be there.
Glory: Yes, you will.
“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
So, so good!
Honestly, at first I wasn’t 100% sold on the story–it took so long to find out why Scarlett and Jesse stopped being friends when they started high school, and that made their relationship in those early chapters feel a bit melodramatic, and the overall vibes were very anti-adult. As their story continued to unfold, though, it steadily sucked me in until OMG I needed to keep going as much as I needed to keep breathing. (And in the end, Scarlett and Jesse found some trustworthy adults to be on their sides, which I appreciated.)
It’s not light reading by any means–there’s some very heavy duty issues in both main characters’ pasts and presents, and both not-quite-adults are required to make some very adult decisions and take some grown-up actions that as a parent I hope my children never will. There’s also a touch of the mystical–a curse that’s (probably) not real and a secondary character who is (often) a psychic (which has me really interested in palmistry now. Were any of the books Scarlett gets from Glory based on real books? And if so–titles, please, Ms. McGarry!) There’s a romance here, but it very much takes a back seat to Scarlett and Jesse’s re-emerging friendship and the choices that the two of them have to make about their lives going forward. Still, there’s a very optimistic HFN at the end with a real possibility of an HEA that made my heart very happy.
Some content warnings: there’s quite a bit of physical and psychological/mental abuse, both in their pasts and in Scarlett’s present, and I was disappointed that the material at the end of the book didn’t include any resources for help with domestic abuse situations–but maybe that will be changed in the actual published version? (Just in case, here’s some information here.)
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
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.