This is one of those rare times when I finish the last book in a series and ask “What on earth happened here?” And by that, I sincerely wonder about the quality of the work in comparison to the root of its beginnings. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the first two books of Rebecca Donovan’s “Breathing” series, despite qualms I may have had in spurts. I was invested in the characters, the respective conflicts, and I found them compelling even when I found certain parts of it turned out to be a bit formulaic. With this particular book, it was a bit too much. I think “Out of Breath” was indicative of its namesake in the sense that it lost its respective steam compared to the first two books. The conflicts were drawn out and the coming to terms forced in its hand by conflicts that felt more threadbare than they should’ve been.
Where the last book left off, Emma leaves her life behind her, closing herself off from those she once knew, particularly Evan, because she doesn’t want to be a source of pain for him anymore. The novel progresses into getting to know the life Emma has in college. She meets new friends in her circles, she keeps on point with her work, but it isn’t long before her past catches up with her, leaving her wallowing in grief. There are parts of this that are difficult to watch, but I appreciated the fact the novel went into them – particularly with Emma’s grief over her mother, her moments of transgression where Evan and Sara have to pick up the pieces when she’s dealing with these issues. Further, I think it provides an interesting bridge to where Emma has to come to terms with her relationships.
Somehow though, I found that certain turns of the conflict turned out to be a little *too* convenient, what with Sara and Jared’s respective issues, with Evan and Cole’s respective rift over Emma, and then one too many long and drawn out scenes towards the end where Emma tries to merge all the points of her past and neglects how her actions affect the people who are trying to bring her to the present and set her on course for the future. I kept thinking after a certain turn “get to the point” because while some of the scenes were nice, it just felt like it dragged the narrative further than it should’ve gone, and that frustrated me.
Another thing that bothered me in this read was the style of the narrative. While I appreciated Evan’s perspective points, I don’t think the way it was told and incorporated in this particular novel was necessary. It felt awkward, and even with the italicized points delineating the variant perspectives, I did have to double check who was saying what. It kept toggling back and forth rather awkwardly. That really affected my enjoyment of the novel compared to the previous two novels in this series.
In the end, I thought this novel had some nice scenes within it that show Emma going through some tough trials to ultimately come to terms with herself physically, mentally and emotionally, but it didn’t hit home the way I thought it would, and felt more drawn out for drama than it did for a full circle, realistic coming to terms. I really wish it could’ve been more for me; it was a fairly weak finish to an otherwise compelling series.
Overall score: 2/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Amazon Publishing/Skyscape.