The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander

Received from NetGalley for review.

The Art of Not Breathing should’ve been addictive reading for me – mental illness, broken families, struggling teenagers – but I found it too clunky to read, probably because it’s a first person narrative from someone who reads as very immature and naïve. I got about one hundred pages in when I started skimming, not because it’s a terrible book, it isn’t, it just failed to hold my interest and I think that is largely due to the writing style; the narrative felt really disjointed to me and took away my enjoyment. I found myself not really caring what happened to the characters, despite their struggles, and from my skim it seems that things largely turned out how I expected.

So, the good:
– Explores a very broken family, one that is trying to keep itself together after the death of eleven year old Eddie (Elsie’s twin). There are a lot of issues within the family and I think the author does a good job of portraying mental illness and the effect it can have on people – there’s alcoholism, depression, eating disorders. Lots of hard hitting stuff that is covered well, in all its gruesome reality.
– Set in a remote Scottish village – a first for me as a reader and I loved the small-town feel of it.
– Elsie (for relatability). Even though I didn’t really like the narrative style used for Elsie, and often found her very young sounding, I know a lot of people will relate to her, especially the feelings of struggle at school and not fitting in.
– I quite liked the ending, which I ended up reading properly after my skim.

The not so good:
– The narrative. Immature, disjointed, and just something a bit ‘off’ about it.
– Instalove. Noooooo. I’ll say no more, we all know it sucks unless done exceptionally well (and not always then).
– Predictable story. This will not be the case for everyone but I felt like I wasn’t really reading anything new or innovative, and could see where the story was going to go. There are a few twists but it’s a pretty standard story.

Read: April 17th-20th 2016

2/5 stars

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