Place Between Breaths
by Na, An

Grace, sixteen, fears that she will succumb to the schizophrenia that took her mother away, while she and her father work for a genetics lab rushing to find a cure.

*Starred Review* Grace King, 16, is smart and mature for her age. She's grown up with the knowledge that her father's primary focus in life is studying schizophrenia, the disease that made her Korean-born mother walk away from them, never to be seen again. Her father, removed and detached from Grace, conducts his research at a prestigious lab, holding on to the hope of finding both a cure and Grace's mother. While Grace is an intern at the lab, she accidentally notices coding issues in test results that just might be the breakthrough needed. However, Grace begins falling apart inside without warning. Confusing questions race through her mind, coming and going like the invisible train she has begun hearing. But one day this train arrives, compelling Grace to confront the true implications of her mother's illness and its impact on her own future. A stark, raw, and minimalistic look at mental illness, Na's (Wait for Me, 2006) slim but powerful novel offers emotionally drawn insights into the struggle with the disease. Told nonlinearly and via various points of view, the narrative includes stunning twists, turns, and revelations. Like the fog and confusion that accompany Grace's episodes, nothing is cleanly delineated, and the reader is left wondering about Grace and seeking answers long after the story has ended. Grades 7-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Walking away from those we love most may seem like the kindest thing we can do, but it's a choice that will forever haunt those we leave behind.Where do we place our faith—in God, in other people, in science? Grace and her father believe salvation will come in the form of a cure for the schizophrenia that led her mother to abandon her family and which now threatens Grace as well. To this end, her workaholic father, a racially ambiguous adoptee who met her Korean mother while working as an Army doctor, is a recruiter for a laboratory doing genetic research, luring in the best talent he can find. Still in high school, 18-year-old Grace has an internship at the same lab, where she meets one of her father's hires, blue-eyed Will, whose easy manner and caring personality draw her in. But all is not well for Grace at home, at school, or in the dark recesses of her mind, where grief, fear, memory, and dread mingle. Told obliquely, with frequent shifts in time marked by seasons in the chapter headers, the spare, haunting text demands and rewards readers' careful attention as they struggle, along with Grace, to determine what is actually real. Thoughtful readers who appreciate literary fiction will find much to savor in this lyrical novel suffused with beauty and terror. (Fiction. 12-adult) Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

The Place Between Breaths


There are many versions of a story. Many sides and lenses that can distort, change, illuminate what is seen and unseen. What is heard and unheard. What is felt and unfelt. In the end, truth is but a facet of a diamond, a spark of ray from the sun, a forget-me-not flower seen from the eyes of a bee. What lives and breathes as reality is a perception, so who is to say what is possible and impossible?

Call it fate or simply coincidence, but the shorter version of how I found you begins like this. There was a dark speck on the side of the barren winter road that grew larger and larger as I drove closer. Expanding from a dot to a stone to a tree stump until I screeched to a halt. A few dozen feet away from a headless coat turtle-shelled on top of the snow. Both of my hands released the steering wheel and coned over my mouth. Was it a body? There was no movement. I slowly opened the door and stepped out. Had someone frozen and died overnight? It wouldn’t have been the first time that something like that happened around here. I took a step forward, and then another, the fragile crack of ice and gravel rippling through me. My breath misted before my face.

A head emerged.

I shouted in fright. “You scared the hell out of me!” A large vapor cloud formed as I exhaled long and slow.

Your disheveled black hair framed your face, petite, round. It was hard to tell how old you were, but something about your eyes told me you were older than you looked.

Slowly unfurling each limb as though in pain, you stood up.

I walked forward in relief.

“You looked like a dead body.”

Your brows gathered as you lifted and dropped your shoulders before bowing your head slightly. “Sorry.”

Then a brief wave of your hand and you started walking down the side of the road.

“Do you need a ride?” I called to your back. You stopped. “I’m on my way to town,” I said.

You gazed back, your eyes roaming my face before you turned and kept walking down the long cold road. Away from me.

•  •  •

That is the short version of how we met. You didn’t tell me then why you were so tired that you had to rest hiding inside your coat by the side of the road, but since then, after meeting again, you have shared a few of your truths. The longer story of us is like the horizon. We can only know what we see, and all that we wish we could understand is beyond vision.

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