Try Not to Breathe
by Hubbard, Jennifer R.

Recently released from the mental hospital where he was treated for suicidal depression, Ryan finds his life turned upside down by the energetic Nicki, who is the only person he has ever met who is not afraid to ask him about his past. By the author of The Secret Year.

Jennifer R. Hubbard lives in the Philadelphia area. She is a hiker, a chocolate lover, and a night person who believes that mornings were meant to be slept through. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines. Her published books include the contemporary young-adult novels The Secret Year, Try Not To Breathe, and Until It Hurts To Stop.

Just out of a mental hospital after attempting suicide, Ryan, 16, feels tense at home with his obsessive mom and distant dad, and at school he is known as the creepy kid who'd tried to kill himself and spent time in the loony bin. He speaks online to his only friends, Jake and Val, with whom he bonded in the hospital, but he keeps secrets even from them. Then he meets Nicki, and they hang out and start a romance. She is haunted by her father's suicide, and she looks to Ryan to help her try to understand why her dad made the decision he did. Can they help each other? Is she just being nice? With suicide at the front and center of the story, this is a book for group discussion, but even with the strong messages, readers will be caught by Ryan's frank, first-person narrative and the fast, tense dialogue that confronts the loneliness, confusion, guilt, and pain of how it feels to be the local loser. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Evocative symbols, carefully drawn details and hints of romance enrich a spare, redemptive character study. Home from a stay at Patterson Hospital following a suicide attempt, Ryan hikes to a powerful waterfall each morning to stand under the crushing spray. Nicki, the younger sister of a boy Ryan knows from school, sees him there one day in August and strikes up a conversation. For the first time, Ryan finds himself opening up to someone besides the two Patterson friends he now talks to by phone and online. As trust, familiarity and perhaps attraction build between the two, Ryan and Nicki reveal pieces of their personal histories, though each still harbors secrets. Defying both sensationalism and cliché, the narrative explores Ryan's suicide attempt and its aftermath with what Ryan calls "Patterson Honesty: the truth, stripped down of all formalities, all politeness." Although much is made of understanding the past-the shame and numbness that led to Ryan's attempt, the unknowable reasons behind Nicki's father's completed suicide-the story is also about moving forward: Can intimacies built inside a place like Patterson survive outside? How can the parents of a teen who attempts suicide trust their child again? What can we ever truly know about ourselves and each other? Haunting, hopeful and masterfully crafted. (Fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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