July 15, 2014

Breathe Annie Breathe - Miranda Kenneally

Breathe Annie Breathe book cover
Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #5
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks, Sourcebooks & Xpresso Tours) || ARC
Buy It: Barnes & Noble || Kobo || iTunes
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line. (from Goodreads)

Without a doubt, Breathe Annie Breathe has solidly slid into second place among my top three Kenneally books (just behind Stealing Parker in first, and just a bit more than Racing Savannah in third). I already knew that Kenneally worked magic with her contemporary stories, bringing to life lovable (flawed) characters and putting them into realistic life situations that reveal and challenge their deepest fears and desires. 

In Breathe Annie Breathe, Annie is training to run a marathon on behalf of her beloved boyfriend who passed away in an accident. In the course of her running training, she meets Jeremiah, a free spirited young man who is into extreme sports and adrenaline rushes. Even though Annie is drawn to him, she fears that she will wind up hurt and alone should something happen whenever he embarks on crazy adventures like bungee jumping and other extreme sports. But this is not just about the romance. This is a novel about a grieving girl who learns to really live again.

It might sound like I’m waxing philosophical, but it’s true. The greatest takeaway I got from Breathe Annie Breathe was learning how to get up again when life knocks you down, how to keep running even when a situation threatens to hold you back. It’s such a valuable life lesson, and I appreciate the subtle way it was a part of Annie’s story.

Annie is one of my favorite Kenneally characters. I say this because I could actually see us being friends if we met in real life! She’s a bit of a loner, particularly after her boyfriend’s accident. But her determination to run a marathon, and the doggedness with which she attacks her training reveal a backbone of steel. Plus, she cares deeply for other people, and goes out of her way to do things that require her to be brave and put herself out there. 

I related most this: her struggle to define herself apart from the great tragedy that has hung over her life for months. It’s never easy to lose someone, and it’s never easy to find the balance between remembering & grieving their loss, and still moving on with the rest of your life. Annie slowly unfurls from the fetal position of grief that she’s been held captive in with each chapter, and it’s beautiful (and hopeful) to watch.

Jeremiah Brown (little brother to Matt Brown, who you may recognize from Things I Can’t Forget) plays a key role in changing Annie’s life. Jere’s a daredevil, always looking for his next adrenaline rush and the next extreme he can conquer. I’ve always been of the mind that some people are just born adrenaline junkies, but there’s an actual reason behind Jeremiah’s stunts. He’s a good guy at heart, Jere, and demonstrates it time again with his actions towards his family and Annie. It was so easy to love him, in spite of the risk his favorite pastimes imposed.

I loved that Annie and Jere’s relationship started off in an unexpected way. There were instant sparks upon their first meeting, and the attraction built to the point where it was irresistible. Even after the initial awkwardness of their lust getting the best of them, these two somehow managed to get over that and actually become friends. Their friendship was just so, so wonderful, from the support and inside jokes, to the conversations and competition. I really loved that I could sense the progression from friendship to something more so well, as the movement felt fluid, natural and just right for them both. Obviously, this is a ship I’d go down with!

There are other characters who make Annie’s life interesting – her mother, her older brother, her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s family and friends, the new friends she makes (including Vanessa and Kelsey, Savannah and Jack, Rory and Colton – all familiar faces from Racing Savannah), her running friends (Liza being the one I remember best!) and the familiar faces of the first cycle of Hundred Oaks books like Matt Brown (her running trainer in this one), Jordan Wood (the HS football coach who connects her to Matt) and many more fun appearances. As always, Kenneally managed to write them all into Annie’s story in a way that felt like they were all destined to play a part in it – and it’s the truth.

Honestly, I loved everything about Breathe Annie Breathe. I loved the story, the way it progressed so perfectly from one scene to the next. I loved the way it provided perspective into Annie’s journey, chronicling struggles and triumphs both. I loved the characters, easily falling into their banter and lines, and falling hard for Annie and Jeremiah. It’s one of my favorite contemporary novels I’ve read this 2014. With so many things about it to love, you’d definitely be missing out if you didn’t grab a copy of it, stat!

(Check out the rest of the tour stops too!)


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