“Barely Breathing,” the second book in Rebecca Donovan’s “Breathing” series didn’t really engage me as much as the first, but I’ll admit it had a strong audio reading, which is what kept me engaged for the most part. It picks up where the last book left off on a rather strong cliffhanger, having Emma reeling from a harrowing encounter and left to pick up the pieces. It’s not an easy road, especially with the promise of someone she’s never really known entering the picture again. Emma’s mother, Rachel, invites Emma back into her life, which holds promise as the two begin to stay with each other. But there’s a dark side to Rachel’s past, and while Emma gets to know her mother’s boyfriend, Jonathan, it’s a tumultuous journey into pain in which Emma has never known and is faced to make tough decisions on her own terms in the aftermath.
I don’t know if it was a matter of my perceptions or the work itself, but this felt a bit more drawn out for development and less evenly paced compared to the first book. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated revisiting the cast of characters in this book, particularly Emma, Evan, and Sara. I also liked the bit moments with Evan and Emma when they were together. I wasn’t sure where the storyline involving Rachel and Jonathan would go, but once I did, I realized the story wouldn’t let up from the amount of heavy drama and cascade of events that would devolve from there. I think it took a bit longer for the potent parts of the conflict to click, probably because the first book was defined by so many turns of conflict in immediate notations (though there were breaks given between to shape the characters). The first book also had more compelling turns where Emma was trapped between choices and had a much stronger voice to show in those conflictions. Here? I think the focus was more on Emma coming to terms with her grief, but the dream sequences and the spaces where she blanks out got repetitive after a while. I also felt a little frustrated with Emma not recognizing how much of a bad influence her mother would turn to be, and I did feel a bit numb at what transpires with Rachel – but I think it was because I guessed a little before the events what would happen. It reminded me a little of what I’d read recently in Katie McGarry’s “Dare You To” and what Beth had to deal with in terms of her mother. I think where the conflicts hit – some of them could’ve been better rounded out and paced to give this narrative more of a punch, imo, but I liked turns of it for what it offered.
I wasn’t expecting the last few chapters at all for their turn – and yet again, it puts the reader in a cliffhanger that will be resolved in the last book of this particular series. I’m looking forward to seeing where Donovan takes this narrative. While I wasn’t as engaged with this book as I was with the first, I still appreciated it for what it offered.
Overall score: 2.5/5 stars