Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Amy Stevenson was the biggest news story of 1995. Only fifteen years old, Amy disappeared walking home from school one day and was found in a coma three days later. Her attacker was was never identified and her angelic face was plastered across every paper and nightly news segment.
Fifteen years later, Amy lies in the hospital, surrounded by 90’s Britpop posters, forgotten by the world until reporter Alex Dale stumbles across her while researching a routine story on vegetative patients.
Remembering Amy’s story like it was yesterday, she feels compelled to solve the long-cold case.
The only problem is, Alex is just as lost as Amy–her alcoholism has cost her everything including her marriage and her professional reputation.
In the hopes that finding Amy’s attacker will be her own salvation as well, Alex embarks on a dangerous investigation, suspecting someone close to Amy.
While not perfect, Try Not to Breathe is an impressive debut for author Holly Seddon mainly because of the two main characters — Alex and Amy — whose tragic stories are told in alternating chapters. The author really went out on a limb by making the comatose Amy a main character and she could have failed miserably, but she not only makes her story compelling through flashbacks to fifteen years earlier, but she fully develops her by exploring the idea that people in vegetative states are cognizant of what is happening around them. While Amy is in a prison due to her condition, so is Alex. Her alcoholism which began when she was a child, has not only ruined her life, it’s now actually put it in danger. She’s only twenty-eight years old, yet her body is beginning to fail because of the ravages of the disease. There are some reviewers who have called Alex unlikable or an “anti-hero”, but I found her an incredibly sympathetic character. I’m going to be honest here and say this may be because alcoholism runs in both sides of my family, and I’ve seen first hand the effects it has on it’s victims and the people who care about them. Alcoholism and for that matter any other addiction, is not a black and white issue, and Holly Seddon illustrates this with Alex’s battle to not only save herself, but seek redemption. Perhaps because of the attention that is paid to Amy and Alex, the other characters aren’t as well written. The mystery of who attacked Amy, and why isn’t a great surprise, and the ending is a bit rushed. Yet despite these flaws, I found this not only a compelling read, but one that I think will stay with me for a while. Try Not to Breathe may not to be for everyone. It’s not exactly what I’d call an upbeat novel although it does have its uplifting moments especially towards the end. It certainly works as a standalone, but I’m hoping that Holly Seddon will write more about these two amazing and complicated women.