Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try not to Breathe Book Cover

Pretention vs. Enjoyment – 4 vs. 5 Stars

4 Stars or 5 Stars. 4 Stars or 5 Stars. 4 Stars or 5 Stars. Choosing my rating tends to be an easy choice. The pretentious reviewer in me thought I should go with 4 stars. The down to earth guy who loves a good yarn thought this was worth all 5. In this case, enjoyment won out over pretention and 5 stars rule the day.

Plot Summary

The story follows Alex, a down and out journalist. Her life is controlled by serious alcohol addiction and as a result has lost her family, friends, career and self worth. While attending the neuro-disability floor of her local hospital to follow up a piece on a local doctor, Alex meets Amy Stevenson. Amy was the victim of an unsolved crime committed some 15 years earlier. Since her attack, she has been living in her hospital bed, having suffered a serious head injury. While most people would say she was in a “vegetative state”, she did have brain activity which allowed for some rudimentary communication. Being the same age as Amy and recalling the disturbing events of years previous, Alex decides to write a story on Amy and attempt to dig up new information. As Amy follows the crumbs toward Amy’s attacker, Alex embarks on a journey of self discovery and must face her own demons while chasing the ghosts of Amy’s past.

My Take

I was hooked. The book had me from the beginning and held on until the end. I enjoyed the concept of the book and Alex’s investigation. An alcoholic character investigating a crime? That has been used to death. Normally, I would roll my eyes at the lack of imagination. Where this differed though, is the portrayal of the alcoholism. It was a deadly problem for Alex and a serious compulsion, yet she was functioning. Her world was built around a addiction that was killing her, yet she managed to construct an artificial world with its own sets of rules and regulations. By strict adherence, she managed to combine the real world with her internal world. As an interesting parallel, we are also privy to the internal consciousness of Amy and how her stunted consciousness interacts with and interprets the real world. The unconsciously constructed world of Amy and the consciously constructed world of Alex allowed for an unlikely bonding and connection.

There were issues with the book. At times, the writing was unnecessarily opaque and attempts to obscure certain elements only highlighted those elements as important. In my mind, this was the biggest downfall of the novel. In future novels, I would expect the author to improve the skill of misdirection. The best magicians make you look where they want without telling you to do so. Like many other reviewers, I picked up on the attackers identity long before the end and I guessed many of the events that surrounded that reveal.

The reviewer in me would hold these issues against the writer but the reader in me didn’t find it fair. I was hooked on the story and couldn’t wait to pick it back up. For me, this novel didn’t hinge on the resolution to Amy’s story. I was engaged with the characters, their development and the manner in which they coped. They story was about the characters and not the criminal. I was engaged in the journey and less about the destination.

Final Thoughts

Had the novel been less engaging, my rating would have been reduced. The author has crafted an excellent debut novel and left me hopeful of other compelling work to come. This title will be released on February 23, 2015. I highly recommend you preorder your copy today or stop by your local bookstore next week. I would expect this title to sell very well.

Content Advisories

It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading.

Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest

Sex – 2.5

Much of the back story revolves around a single sexual experience. It is often discussed but it is not graphic.


F-Word – 55 instances Mild Profanity – Approx. 40 Religious Exclamations – 10

Violence – 2.5

While it is an act of violence that allowed for the mystery, there is very little description of the act. Its serves as a back drop.

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.