Breathless

( 39 )

Overview

At boarding school, Katie tries to focus on swimming and becoming popular instead of the painful memories of her institutionalized schizophrenic older brother.

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Breathless

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Overview

At boarding school, Katie tries to focus on swimming and becoming popular instead of the painful memories of her institutionalized schizophrenic older brother.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
*Starred Review* Says 15-year-old Katie, “The only thing I really love is swimming. Sometimes I feel like I don’t really exist outside of the water.” When her parents send her to boarding school after her schizophrenic brother, Will, attempts suicide, Katie loves the escape that Woodsdale offers from her family: institutionalized and increasingly violent Will; her emotionally distant dad; and her alcoholic mom. She also loves the intensity of the school’s swim team, with its motto that “practice isn’t over until someone pukes,” and she begins a tender relationship with a gorgeous fellow swimmer, Drew, a devout Christian who, unlike most of their classmates, is still a virgin. After a misunderstanding leads to a lie, Katie tells her new friends that Will is dead. Only Katie’s roommate, Mazzie, knows the truth, and that shared secret begins the deep friendship at the core of this heartbreaking debut. Stretched over three years, the episodic novel, narrated in Katie’s raw voice, meanders occasionally in its focus. But Warman’s achingly realistic scenes and characters transcend cliché, and with rare, refreshing honesty and flashes of wry humor, she writes about the intimacy of boarding school, the anguish of family illness, finding a sense of self in sports and in life, and the small, mysterious, imperfect moments that add up to love in all its forms. Booklist, starred review

*Starred Review* Though there’s plenty of weight in the plot, this isn’t a book about events so much as human dynamics, and characterization is vivid and exquisite. Katie is achingly real, and her relationship with her ferocious, guarded, and superbly faithful roommate, Mazzie, is one of the most tender and intimate platonic friendships in YA lit….Since readers make the journey with Katie, they’ll sympathize with her choices and failures, and they’ll be glad to see, in the closing epilogue from ten years on, that she learns to find her own stability while remaining connected to Will. Along the way to that hard-fought end, they’ll find the boarding-school experience enviable, the family situation poignant, and Katie a protagonist they’ll understand, support, and forgive. —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review

*Starred Review* Katie, 15, is most herself when she is in the water, swimming faster and better all the time. Things were so much simpler when the Kitrells were poor–her family seemed closer. Now that they are financially comfortable, their relationships have deteriorated. Katie’s parents become more and more wrapped up in one another, and Katie feels excluded. She is still close to her older brother, Will, who is schizophrenic, and when his behavior becomes more erratic and extreme, she becomes concerned and frightened. Their father, now successful in his psychiatric practice, seems unable to maintain any warm relationships with his children, and sends Katie away to boarding school. There she is accepted by the most popular girls and attracts the attention of gorgeous Drew, captain of the swim team. Katie is also intrigued by her strangely withdrawn roommate and works on building her trust. Eventually, too much drinking, smoking, and worrying about her family take their toll on her swimming performance. When her brother’s illness spirals out of control again, Katie faces serious personal losses and challenges that have no simple solutions. Warman treats Will’s schizophrenia with stark honesty as seen through his sister’s eyes. Similar to Jessica Lee Anderson’s Border Crossing (Milkweed, 2009), this novel provides an important look at an extremely difficult illness and its effects on a family. School Library Journal, starred review

Children's Literature - Heather Robertson Mason
Katie Kittrell loves to swim. It is the only thing she likes to do. In the water she feels free from the pressures of distant parents, school cliques, and a schizophrenic brother. When her parents send her to boarding school, she lies about her brother then spends the next three years trying to fit in with the popular group and hoping that no one finds out. The only person who knows her secret is her roommate Mazzie, a girl with her own set of demons. When Katie's brother commits a horrible act, her secret comes out shocking everyone, including her ultra religious boyfriend. There are parts to this book that are beautifully written. The scenes between Katie and her brother and Katie and her roommate are intimate and so real that if feels like eavesdropping. Other parts of the book, however, read like a typical teenage novel: flat and predictable. Katie's boyfriend is an example of this. With scenes of drugs, sex and violence commonplace, this book is high school and up only. In parts wonderful and in parts typical, this novel is a mixed bag. Reviewer: Heather Robertson Mason
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Katie, 15, is most herself when she is in the water, swimming faster and better all the time. Things were so much simpler when the Kitrells were poor—her family seemed closer. Now that they are financially comfortable, their relationships have deteriorated. Katie's parents become more and more wrapped up in one another, and Katie feels excluded. She is still close to her older brother, Will, who is schizophrenic, and when his behavior becomes more erratic and extreme, she becomes concerned and frightened. Their father, now successful in his psychiatric practice, seems unable to maintain any warm relationships with his children, and sends Katie away to boarding school. There she is accepted by the most popular girls and attracts the attention of gorgeous Drew, captain of the swim team. Katie is also intrigued by her strangely withdrawn roommate and works on building her trust. Eventually, too much drinking, smoking, and worrying about her family take their toll on her swimming performance. When her brother's illness spirals out of control again, Katie faces serious personal losses and challenges that have no simple solutions. Warman treats Will's schizophrenia with stark honesty as seen through his sister's eyes. Similar to Jessica Lee Anderson's Border Crossing (Milkweed, 2009), this novel provides an important look at an extremely difficult illness and its effects on a family.—Roxanne Myers Spencer, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
Kirkus Reviews
Katie Kitrell, ambivalent toward her ever-absent psychiatrist father and alcoholic, artist mother, has a fierce bond with her older brother, Will, even after a drug-induced schizophrenia takes over his personality. When his escalating violence threatens the family, their parents whisk competitive swimmer Katie from their small, blue-collar Pennsylvania town (which she blames for Will's downfall) to a boarding school. Although she finds instant popularity and intellectual stimulation, the setting only leads to new problems: how to pretend her brother is dead; a hypocritical, fundamentalist boyfriend; backstabbing cliques; a roommate with family secrets of her own; questioning her own sexuality and worth. The only place Katie can breathe easily in this debut, semi-autobiographical novel is the swimming pool. As she defines her friendships and her love-hate relationships with Will and herself, she begins to feel more at ease on land, too. Warman draws out Katie's emotions and her complex life and family with immediacy. Readers who dive in will surface with more awareness of the devastating effects of mental illness. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802798497
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 8/18/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Age range: 14 - 18 Years
  • Lexile: 790L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Jessica Warman is the author of Breathless, Where the Truth Lies, and Between, which have received six starred reviews among them. Between was published in a total of twelve countries around the world. Jessica has an MA in creative writing and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

www.jessicawarman.com

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(20)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

    Katie and her older brother, Will, were like two peas in a pod growing up. At first, their family is poor as their father struggles through medical school and their mother tries to become a successful artist. As their fortune changes, the family finds themselves the richest in their southwestern Pennsylvania town of Hillsburg. The rich are usually the elite of a community, but in Hillsburg, they never quite fit in.

    To make matters worse, as time goes by, Will begins to change. He's not quite right and begins short stays in a mental hospital. It isn't until the start of her sophomore year in high school that Will physically hurts himself. To remove Katie from the situation, her parents ship her off to boarding school in West Virginia.

    Katie is far from boarding school material, but soon, Woodsdale Academy becomes more of a home to her than the house in Hillsburg. She is befriended by Estella and Lindsey almost from the first moment she arrives. Estella is the most popular girl on campus and is intrigued by Katie.

    What Katie starts as a small omission about her family soon turns into a lie she feels is too great to reveal. She's told her fellow students that her brother is dead. She can't confess the fact that he is absolutely crazy. Estella already jokingly calls Katie white trash. She'd never live it down if the full impact of the truth was revealed.

    As the story progresses, Katie develops a strange bond with her mysterious roommate, Mazzie Moon. And the gorgeous boy that hangs out with Estella's boyfriend, Stetson, is soon paired up with Katie for swimming practice. Swimming is all Katie is good at, and the only time the jumbled thoughts in her head are quieted. Drew becomes her boyfriend, and all is right at Woodsdale. But as time goes by, Katie questions things around her and wants more for herself.

    BREATHLESS is the kind of story that I had hoped Curtis Sittenfeld's PREP was going to be. The main character actually evolves and grows as the story unfolds. Katie is far more likeable than Lee ever becomes in PREP. By the end of the novel, the reader can actually close the story, satisfied that a proper ending was achieved.

    Katie starts off as one of the crowd, going with the flow, but she eventually learns to be her own person and do what she needs to for herself, not what is expected of her by others.

    28 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2011

    Best Book i read all year!!!!!!!!

    At first when i started reading this i reallu wasnt in to it but then soon i couldnt put it down.This book was so well writen and was interseting and deep and just an amazing book all together.This auhor is amazing and so is her other book Where the truth lies i can not wait till she write's more!

    7 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2009

    The most realistic story I've ever read

    I think one of the most amazing things about this book is that Warman is fearless in her undertaking of serious concepts - dating someone for too long because of being comfortable, religion, roommates, lying, etc etc. The scenes are painfully real and her writing is brilliant. Everything about it says "REAL" to you and the emotion involved is heavy and subtle at the same time. A REALLY GOOD BOOK!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2013

    Surprisingly good

    Really good , kind of like perks of being a wallflower. Loved the exploration of the stigma surrounding mental illness, and social class.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Awesome

    This vbook should be recommended to teenagers about the struggles of growing up with a family member espically someone close is sick
    I LOVE THIS BOOK:)

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    kinda reminds me of another book...

    ok so i read this book in about 3 days considering i havent read a book in like a year :) it was amazing and awesome. my only concern is that it kinda reminded me of the private books for some reason..the boarding school, the popular girls, the boyfriend, and the parties..but i really liked it overall :)

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2012

    Blank

    Iliked the book in the book in the begining, but then started to lose interest little more than half way through. The book was okay.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    Good Book

    Was a good book with a bad ending...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2013

    Life lessoned filled

    This is a great book. It is interesting and honest just like real like its self.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    Breathless review

    This was a good book. It was so different from what i've read in the past, but could honestly remember everything. I don't really recomend this to people that aren't fine with reading racy kind of stuff. Overall, it's a must read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2013

    Breathless

    When i first started it wasnok but then i finished it and i was like oh my gosh i loved it a lot..

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    Good read; weird story!!!!!

    Great book for me!!!!! Felt like it got reeeeally weird but in a good way kinda towards the middle-end. Overall the epilogue could have been better but the book itself was pretty good aand the whole idea of the plot ws original. Definately NOT for 6th grade and under but maybe a mature sixth grader could read it but for sure at least age 12 to read this book!!!!!! Hope whoever reads it likes it but be prepared to read something complicated and twisted although not unrealistic because it could happen with baddddddd luck but it shows the family's troubles. And again dont read this if you are under twelve!!!!!!!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012

    I should totally get this

    This book seems sooo awsome i reallu think i should get it

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    Awesome book

    Barrowed it from a friend......very suspenseful....laughed and cried...i love this book....one of my favs now

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    !

    I really don't like this book at all. It is a bad influence

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

    What??!?!?! U hav 2 read this book

    Cant believe this book has only a few reviewz!!!! WHAT!!! this book was amazing. U hav 2 read it. I am telling u that this book is a whole new experience. It Opened new doors in the reading world 4 me!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2012

    Not my favorite

    I was looking forward to this since it involved a "family secret" and a boarding school locale, but was disappointed. I never really connected to the characters, and the tone never felt right. I read it in the Nook format and there were several typos, which was distracting. I should have given up, but kept hoping I would be drawn into the story..that never happened.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Worth Reading.

    This book was really different from books i'm used to reading. It IS an average book, but something about it is extravigently attractive. The story is interesting & deserves to be read. The whole book is great. The only thing i think could've been better was the end. It ends sweetly, but nothing really changes. It's a great read, though.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2010

    LOVE

    I actually read this book last year. I checked it out from the library and read it all in one sitting. It was just so amazing and so real. I felt like I was the girl in the book. Whenever I go back to the library to pick out a book to read or whenever I try and think "hm, what book should I read next?" this one ALWAYS enters my mind.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 6, 2010

    Realest book I have read in a long time

    I love books and I read them like a drug addict gets high and could not put this book down. My friends thought something was wrong with me. I would stay up past 3 am just to read it and all through out my classes I would read it and missed a lot of information because of it. (I found that is was TOTALLY worth missing a few important details in class.) I would recommend this book to anyone. It is written well, real life, and memorable. I would love to see a movie of it, it would be popular even if it wasn't a book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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