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Breathe My Name

Breathe My Name

4.6 33
by R.A. Nelson

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Frances can forgive. She can even forget. But she can never escape her past. . . .

In this compelling psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of Teach Me, Frances Robinson has the perfect life: loving adoptive parents, a great best friend, and a cute new boyfriend. But Frances has a secret.

Once upon a time she wasn’t Frances


Frances can forgive. She can even forget. But she can never escape her past. . . .

In this compelling psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of Teach Me, Frances Robinson has the perfect life: loving adoptive parents, a great best friend, and a cute new boyfriend. But Frances has a secret.

Once upon a time she wasn’t Frances Robinson. She was Shine, and she lived with her three sisters and her birth mother, Afton Jelks, far out in the country. But the loneliness overtook Afton’s fragile mind, and one day she smothered her daughters, one after another. Only Frances escaped.

Now Afton is out of prison. And she wants to finish what she started. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In a sad, haunting story of murder and its tragic aftermath, 18-year-old Frances Robinson seems to have a picture-perfect life in tiny Bethel, Ala., complete with a loving family, a fun-loving best friend and even a cute new boyfriend. But beneath this happy façade lies a dark and ugly past: 11 years ago, her mother gradually descended into insanity and one day suffocated Frances's three younger sisters; Frances escaped death only because a passerby came to her rescue. Now, safe and secure with her adopted family, Frances struggles to move on and forget her survivor's guilt. But all the terrible memories come crashing back when she learns that her mother has been released from prison and placed in a halfway home-and wants to see Frances. "I need to see you," she writes from her undisclosed location. "We have to finish." Deciding that she can't fully embrace her future without confronting her past, Frances and her boyfriend, Nix, secretly take off on a road trip to find her mother. The story captivates at times, but progresses awkwardly. The flashbacks to Frances's childhood disrupt the pacing at the beginning, but most are too brief for readers to glean significant insight from them. The momentum picks up considerably when the teens set off on their journey, but the curve-ball conclusion isn't remotely plausible. Ages 14-up. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
"Shine is my name in Fireless," (p.2) but in the current timeframe of the story, Frances is 18 and still a junior in high school. Through alternating chapters we learn about the shattering events of her childhood that led to a new name and adoption at age seven. Fireless is the make-believe world her biological mother created for herself and four daughters as she slid ever deeper into a psychotic depression that eventually led to her murdering the three youngest children. Frances lives in fear that she carries the taint, the destiny of madness. When a stranger, claiming to be her mother's attorney, appears with a note asking for a meeting, Frances plots with her best friend, Ann Mirette, and her new boyfriend, Nix, to track down her mother. Her adoptive parents have worked hard to hide Frances' identity from an exploitative media; they would absolutely forbid this reunion if they knew, but Frances feels she has to confront her demons. There is a twist when she finally locates her mother, since the phony lawyer has manipulated events for his own purposes. The symbolic ending feels a bit contrived and much too abrupt. Teens will easily identify with the mix of feelings Frances has towards her protective parents, at times grateful but also feeling stifled. This would be a potentially valuable read for YA's dealing with more challenging issues such as adoption, mental illness of a parent, or loss of siblings. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
To most people who know her, Frances appears to lead a quiet, happy, sheltered life. She has a loving but overprotective family; a strong, opinionated best friend; and a budding relationship with the new boy in town. Beneath the surface, however, lies a dark secret that has tormented Frances for eleven years: One morning, her biological mother took each of her four daughters upstairs and smothered them with pillows. Only Frances survived. The arrival of a stranger carrying a message sparks a journey to face the monster and put an end to her nightmares. Along the way, she discovers strength and resilience, accepts the loss she could not prevent, and learns to move forward at last. The plot takes some leaps and occasionally borders on melodrama, but readers will forgive those flaws and follow the story eagerly to the end. Teenagers will relate to the quick intensity of new relationships and the exhilaration and fear of clandestine road trips. Haunting memories from her childhood are interwoven with the everyday life Frances has found with her adoptive family, flowing smoothly from past to present and back again, and giving flesh to the characters and the worlds they inhabit. The flashbacks provide a rich atmosphere as well as necessary background. This coming-of-age story is told in a sensitive but not sentimental or sensationalized manner. Frances grows to see her own past not through the eyes of a scared seven-year-old, but through those of the young adult she has become. Reviewer: Cheryl French
School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up- Eighteen-year-old Frances Robinson, born Francine Jelks, has been living in Alabama with her loving, adopted family for years, but there are still nights when she wakes up in a cold sweat, reminded that she once lived in a place called Fireless with her mother, Afton, and three younger sisters. One day a lawyer arrives, informing her that Afton has been released into a halfway house and giving her a letter from her mother; it ends, "We need to finish." The last time Frances saw Afton was when the woman tried to suffocate her with a pillow after murdering her siblings in the same fashion. With the help of her friend Ann Mirette, Frances plans a road trip with her boyfriend, "Nix," to find her birth mother. As scared as she is of seeing this frightening figure from the past, she wants to know if her mother was all bad. Can there be any good left in a person who was capable of something so evil? Nelson's novel is a thoughtful, moody, and entirely thrilling book. Flashbacks of Frances's youth in Fireless establish a creepy atmosphere showing Afton's descent into darkness. Nelson lightens the mood with a supporting cast of sympathetic and quirky characters, including recent New Orleans transplant Nix. Breathe My Name doesn't shy away from exploring the gray areas: forgiveness and family. With major twists and turns in the last 50 pages, this book will keep readers riveted until the very end.-Jennifer Barnes, Homewood Library, IL

Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Frances left Fireless, her mother's dark imaginary world, years ago and found comfort in an adoptive family, but when she receives a letter from a psychiatric hospital saying "finish it," horrific memories surface. Two small sisters lie lifeless on a bed; sick games turn giggles into shrieks; and a mother's saucer eyes terrify. To end these nightmarish visitations, Frances embarks on a secret road trip to face her mother. Her boyfriend, Nix, drives, offering empathy and humor. Nelson's teen characters emerge as unique, fully realized people with accents, physical features and emotional dimensions that distinguish them from familiar young-adult caricatures. Vivid, unnerving scenes from Fireless break up Frances's present-day journey, jolting readers and placing them inside her psyche. With sensationalized news everywhere, teens will be fascinated by Frances's childhood at the center of a media-crazed tragedy. Readers also see what happens to the tragic players after cameras stop clicking. An unlikely final twist does not dilute Nelson's incandescent writing. Its shimmering clarity transfixes the reader, candling both damaging and redemptive familial forces. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
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Sold by:
Penguin Group
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File size:
341 KB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Nelson's incandescent writing...transfixes the reader." -Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

R.A. Nelson is the author of the novels Teach Me, Breathe My Name, Days of Little Texas, and Throat. His work was selected as a finalist for National Public Radio's list of the "Best Young Adult Fiction Ever Written." Nelson was chosen a Horn Book Newcomer and his books have been nominated to the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list and recognized by the Parents' Choice Awards, the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list, Booksense Kid Picks, the Miami Herald Best Books of the Year, teenreads.com Best Books of the year, and others. Nelson is also published in Germany and Hungary. He lives with his family in Alabama and is a recipient of NASA's prestigious Silver Snoopy Award for "outstanding support provided to the Space Shuttle program." Teach Me has been optioned by Protagonist Films for a feature film. Follow him on Twitter @ranelsonya.

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Breathe My Name 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found it hard to get into this book but once i did i was hooked. A great book and one that i would definitely read again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this boom years ago and think of it time and time again I wish I knew where I put it so I could read it again. I absolutely loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
A suspenseful read throughout and a page turner. The writing style was good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an AMAZING book. It had me hooked from the very first chapter. It keeps you intersested till the very last page. It's a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absoulutley loved this book! It had me on the edge of my seat from the first chapter. And i loved how it alternated chapters of the present and the past. I recomended it to all my friends and i loaned it around. EVERYONE loves it! Wonderful book! ONe of my favorites! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sierra_D More than 1 year ago
Breathe My Name by R.A. Nelson is a book that captures both the present, and the past, in a way that leads the reader on the roller coaster of a lifetime. The main character, Frances, has a very troubled past. All that we are told at first is that she is adopted, and that she doesn't enjoy remembering or having anything to do with her mother. As if this wasn't enough, soon a new boy moves to town, by the name of Nix. Their friendship is forced at first. Nix is a country boy, far too raw and different for Frances's taste. However, soon enough, the two are inseparable, and seem to fall for each other in a way that is a bit more than friendly. One day when she comes home, Frances sees a car parked at her adopted parents' house. This car belongs to a lawyer, named Mr. Carruthers. He gives Frances a note from her real mother, who was deemed insane eleven years before. Things quickly escalate, and Frances turns to Nix, her closest friend, for help. She tells him her story-when she was younger, her mother created her own little world. This world caused her mother to be insane to such a degree that she suffocated Frances's three younger sisters, and tried to do the same to Frances. Soon after, Frances and Nix decide to go find Frances's mother, and settle things once and for all. Out of ten, this book is definitely a 10. It is suspenseful; it always is fast paced, and always has a turn at the beginning and end of each chapter. The author has created an intricate web of characters, plot, and back-story that come together in such a way that nobody's left bored by the time the book is over. Personally, I could read this book over and over (and never get bored) and recommend it to every teen out there, but with a warning-you're in for an awesome ride!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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jhoopstar1221 More than 1 year ago
this book was good but not that memorable, it is hard to remember what happened throughout the book
Justsoright More than 1 year ago
¿Shine is my name. When she talks about Fireless, I watch Momma¿s eyes. That is the way you tell if it¿s going to be okay. If her eyes change, that¿s when I get afraid¿I keep looking at her eyes as she crawls around in the creek. Momma is good at scaring things.¿ In R.A. Nelson¿s second novel, Breathe My Name, Frances Robinson is pulled back into her past. For Frances to go on with her life, she must confront the ghost of her past and search for closure. Frances has a new family with new parents and new siblings. When she was younger, Frances¿ birthmother smothered her three little sisters which completely tore apart her life and family. She was adopted by an Alabama family and struggles to live a normal life.
All is well until Frances is told that her mother has been released from prison. The only thing that could be worse is the letter she receives from her mother. ¿I need to see you. Please come right away. We have to finish.¿ Frances¿ normal life is interrupted, and her world is turned upside down. Old nightmares have now returned. They are consuming her everyday life as she sees her mother around her.
Nix, a new student from New Orleans enters her life and helps her through the new danger. He is outgoing, loud, and unconventional, everything that Frances is not. He opens her heart to new emotions and is an unyielding force in her life. Nix goes with her on her journey to the past and search for closure. Frances tries to figure out how her mother wants to finish things and what meets her is a suspenseful scene.
I read R.A. Nelson¿s first novel, Teach Me, and I loved it so much that I could not wait for this story to come out. There are similar themes in these two novels. Each character must confront their ghosts in order for them to go on with their lives. I always liked the way that Nelson wrote his stories, and this book is no different. Nelson exposes his readers to new experiences with his characters¿ lives, and their stories are poignant and heart-wrenching.
Nelson uses magnificent and clever writing in his tale of a troubled teen. He takes the horrible account of a mother killing her children and makes it realistic and one can feel Frances¿ pain. I fell in love with the characters in this story and it felt as though I went on the journey with them. Nelson¿s descriptions of the characters throughout the novel are precise. The characters brought out emotions in me that I did not think a book could do. This novel made me laugh, cry, and freeze with fear.
With this gripping novel, Nelson captures the reader from the start and never lets them go. Once I started to read this book, I couldn¿t put it down. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bree10 More than 1 year ago
Breathe my name is the best book I have read in a very long time. It was scary, romantic, funny, and rivoting. It was so so great. It reminded me of "Bridge To Terebithia", although its nothing like it at all. This is one of the greatest book I have read in a long, long time.(: P.S. You'll fall in LOVE with Nix!
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Frances Robinson's story has a lot in common with several news stories in recent years. Eleven years ago, her biological mother smothered her three younger sisters, and if it hadn't been for the arrival of a total stranger, Frances might have been next.

BREATHE MY NAME picks up when Frances is eighteen and a junior in high school. She lives with her loving adoptive parents in a nice home in a nice town. She is relatively happy, but things are about to change.

First, Frances meets Nix, a new student who just moved from New Orleans. He's a bit different but strangely fascinating. As lab partners, they begin to get to know each other and share stories. But there's a story Frances can't seem to share - the story of her mother and her sisters. How do you tell someone you care about something like that?

The other change for Frances comes in the form of a letter delivered by a special messenger. It appears to be from her mother, who has been locked up for the past eleven years. She is about to be released to a group home and seems to be requesting to meet with Frances.

R. A. Nelson's BREATHE MY NAME tells the amazing story of a young girl trying to come to grips with her past and decide how to move on with the future. Readers will find themselves pulled into the lives on the pages and carried along the sometimes frightening and bumpy ride as Frances takes control of her own destiny. This book is well worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
you'll fall in love with nix. =] and the story is just great. what else is there to say? i would definitely say this book is worth the money.