Learning to Breathe
Author: Janice Lynn Mather
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Indy struggles to conceal her pregnancy while searching for a place to belong in this stunning debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Amber Smith and Sara Zarr.
Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules—to study hard in school, be respectful, and to never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow.
When Indy is sent to live with distant relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth.
Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found the place. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls and a roof—it’s about the people she chooses to share it with. (Goodreads)
*I received an advance copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Canada for this blog tour in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion.*
My dear, sweet Indy. I was drawn to her almost immediately after starting the book and my affection for her only grew throughout the story. By the end of Learning to Breathe, I could have sworn she was a friend of mine that I had known for years. Watching her go through the struggles of being sent away from the only home she’s known and Grammy who has been her rock during a childhood without much parenting from her mother fosters a special attachment to Indy.
The story itself is absolutely gut-wrenching at parts and then, on the other end of the spectrum, extremely hopeful at others. Watching her foster new connections with people at the retreat and strengthen ‘neglected’ relationships with others in her life is so compelling. The hardships are well-balanced with the good that she finds along the way and watching her grow in spite of the negatives and with the help of the positives she encounters is probably one of my favourite parts of the story. It’s one thing to like a character right off the bat but it’s so refreshing when an author builds on that and makes them worm their way even further into your heart.
Mather also did a stunning job with her secondary characters. They feet just as real and just as compelling as Indy does.Dion and Joe are easily two of my favourites but realistically, I adore the whole crew over at the retreat. The connectedness of all the secondary characters and the little comments dropped between them and about them really helped to build the sense of tight-knit community where Indy lives (and where everyone often knows too much about everyone else) and just how hard it is for her to escape the choices her mother both made and continues to make.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a contemporary read and especially the ones that don’t shy away from the tough topics. Learning to Breath is a stunning debut and I cannot wait for everyone to have their heartstrings pulled by this story and my dear Indy!
AUTHOR GUEST POST
What was your inspiration for writing Learning To Breathe?
We were 15 or 16, somewhere around there, somewhere around Indy’s age. Someone in our little circle of friends mentioned she heard this girl’s older male relative was “messing with her.” This girl had been part of our circle a few years before, and for some reason none of us exactly remembered, even then, she wasn’t anymore. Some one of us said that this thing that had happened, this “messing with her” had happened because “she must have been looking for it.”
As far as I know, at that time, all of us who were involved in that conversation were virgins, but we all knew plenty about it. Getting it, wanting it, giving it away, saving it, giving it up too easy, who we wouldn’t mind receiving it from. What we didn’t know about was having it taken by force and against our will. We all knew the words that would describe such a thing, but it didn’t seem to apply to this case, for a reason none of us could define. We weren’t uncommonly mean or unusually cruel girls. We had some knowledge of right and wrong, of fair and unfair, of legal and criminal, but none of us challenged this idea that a girl pretty much identical to us had obviously invited the crime of her own sexual assault. It wasn’t an uncommon or isolated concept: we all “knew” that acting in particular ways meant you were inviting sexual attention. We’d all heard authorities—political, religious, academic—advise girls to dress “appropriately”, lest our choice of clothing send boys and men into uncontrolled sexual frenzies. We knew that the worst insult you could toss at another girl was always to say she’d been involved in sex in some way—any way. Consent wasn’t part of the conversation.
Over the next few years, my social circle widened, and a few people I crossed paths with shared stories not too different from that of this girl. Sometimes they were older, sometimes younger. It might be a relative, it might be a “friend”, or someone from their neighbourhood. It wasn’t something I could turn away from or brush off as an act these people I knew and cared about had welcomed and invited and deserved. Amongst all this, the story of this girl in high school kept coming back. I found myself trying to make sense of how a person who had been assaulted might live through that experience, especially as I came to understand just how many people were in exactly that situation.
That’s how the character of Indy was born, and how I came to write Learning to Breathe. In part it was to make sense, and in part, I think, to try to right the wrong of those words: “she must have been looking for it.” I can’t go back and change how I reacted to that girl’s tragedy, but I can try to make sense, to put myself in someone’s shoes, to empathize, and to try to stand on her side.