A Breath Too Late — Rocky Callen

May 4, 2020

A Breath Too Late by Rocky CallenTITLE: A Breath Too Late
AUTHOR: Rocky Callen
GENRE: Contemporary
PAGES: 272pg
SOURCE: Edelweiss

Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.
But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to re-assemble. There’s her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists. Told in epistolary-like style, this deeply moving novel sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places.

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I was really looking forward to this, but it wasn’t what I expected at all. Yes, it is a book about a girl regretting her own suicide, but I feel like the vast majority of it is actually about domestic abuse and about Ellie’s mom more or less keeping them in a situation where their lives are being threatened constantly and they face almost daily violence from Ellie’s dad. As a domestic abuse survivor myself, I usually find stories like this cathartic and releasing, if that makes sense, but… *sigh* I wish I could come up with the right words to explain why this entire abuse depiction felt so exploitative and uncomfortable to me.

Beyond that, what I can put into words is how much this author’s writing style doesn’t agree with me. There are almost no contractions in the narrative or dialogue and the characters constantly phrase things in clunky, stilted ways that makes the entire reading experience flow poorly. There’s a lot of potential in Callen’s writing, but I do believe this book needed more editing and polishing.

I feel somewhat guilty for giving this book 2 stars, because the author’s heart was clearly in a good place and I appreciate the attempt that was made here. That said, between the unenjoyable narrative voice and the unnecessarily constant barrage of violence and abuse… I can’t recommend this book. I’m also going to be painfully honest here and say that, as another individual who has dealt with depression and suicidal ideation since I was a preteen, nothing about Ellie’s story would have deterred me or given me hope to keep fighting. If anything, I think it would have made me feel even more bleak and miserable, and I’m honestly struggling a bit as I type this with the terrible mood A Breath Too Late put me in. And with that, I’m going to finish this review and go find something to focus on that’s not quite so devastating.

Thank you so much to Henry Holt & Co. for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review!

c o n t e n t – w a r n i n g s →

domestic abuse, suicide, substance abuse, bullying, depression

d i v e r s i t y →

t l ; d r →

Poor marketing and mediocre writing come together in a tremendously disappointing release.


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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. Thank you so much for this honest review. This was one I was hesitant about based on the synopsis and had trouble finding many reviews about, so I decided not to get it for my library’s teen collection. Having now read your review, I have to say I’m a bit relieved I didn’t get it!

      1. Awww, I’m glad I could help. ♥ I’m not submitting acquisition titles right now since our region is completely shut down to the public, but it had been on the list I planned on sending in when we re-open until I read it. It’s one of those times that made me grateful to read an ARC before adding it to the collection. :/

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