Try Not to Breatheby Holly Seddon Published 23 Feb 2016
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For fans of Lianne Moriarty, Paula Hawkins, and Tana French, an arresting debut novel of psychological suspense: a young journalist struggles to keep the demons of her alcoholism at bay as she finds her purpose again in tackling the mystery of a shocking headline-making crime, still unsolved after fifteen years.
Amy Stevenson was the biggest news story of 1995. Only fifteen years old, Amy disappeared walking home from school one day and was found in a coma three days later. Her attacker was never identified and her angelic face was plastered across every paper and nightly news segment.
Fifteen years later, Amy lies in the hospital, surrounded by 90’s Britpop posters, forgotten by the world until reporter Alex Dale stumbles across her while researching a routine story on vegetative patients.
Remembering Amy’s story like it was yesterday, she feels compelled to solve the long-cold case.
The only problem is, Alex is just as lost as Amy—her alcoholism has cost her everything including her marriage and her professional reputation.
In the hopes that finding Amy’s attacker will be her own salvation as well, Alex embarks on a dangerous investigation, suspecting someone close to Amy.
Told in the present by an increasingly fragile Alex and in dream-like flashbacks by Amy as she floats in a fog of memories, dreams, and music from 1995, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer to a breathtaking conclusion.
"Try Not to Breathe" Reviews
Try Not to Breathe is Holly Seddon's debut novel. A really good psychological suspense novel that pulled me in right from the start.
***Although I always try my best there may be minor spoilers***
Alex Dale is a young journalist whose focus is mostly on trying to maintain her alcoholism. She rides the line between serious drinker and functioning alcoholic. After losing her job and her husband she's barely hanging on.
Then Alex comes across Amy Stevenson....
While writing an article about a doctor who is researching brain scans showing signs of communication from patients in a vegetative state, Alex visits a hospital ward where these patients live. Among these patients is Amy Stevenson. Amy has been in a coma since 1995 after being brutally attacked. However, although it appears Amy is lost to the world she is still there, locked inside her body, and reliving the past.
Alex feels a strange connection to Amy as she is similar in age and remembers when the horrific crime happened. She becomes obsessed with wanting to find out what happened to Amy and tell her story.
The story is told from multiple points of view. Although the majority is Alex in the present, there is Amy in dream like flashbacks from 1995 on, and a few other characters past and present. The story flowed fairly well. However, there were a couple of times mid chapter where something would switch and it would take me a moment to catch up to what happened. This happened a few times and it wasn't terrible, it just would catch me off guard until I caught up again.
I thought the plot was quite original especially how Alex's alcoholism was portrayed. Her routine and rules of how to drink and when to drink etc. really showed the nitty gritty of what it's like to have an almost all encompassing addiction to alcohol. All of the characters were very well developed. I especially thought Alex and Amy's characters were well-written and completely believable.
"Some secrets never die. They're just locked away."
Even though I had some idea of who Amy's attacker was I wasn't dead on. Actually I think even if I had figured out who it was it wouldn't have dampened my interest in the book as there was so much more involved.
The author indicated that she took artistic license when dealing with Amy's condition. However, it felt as though she must have done quite a bit of research as descriptions of the neurological disability unit of the hospital and the patients felt very realistic. So although this book is fiction, I thought many of the descriptions and situations came across as very believable.
All in all this was a really good debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Holly Seddon.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
I'd like to thank Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest and fair review.
Well, I'm a bit disappointed as all the hype around this book had me expecting more. I should have learned by now that hype tends to destroy reads for me.
Things I liked: many aspects of the plot were very unique and intriguing. I found the idea of a victim of a horrific crime left in a "vegetative state" interesting and a strong theme to build an excellent thriller on. Also, the research of the symptoms of various illnesses mentioned in the story (alcoholism, Alzheimer's, etc) was very thorough and horrifying.
Things I did not like: Alex was a very unlikable and unrealistic character to me. Honestly, most of the characters were very shallow and unbelievable. I also figured out the "big twist" at about 20% into the book. I guess the big twist for me was "HAH! You really did figure it out early! Surprise!"
*********MAJOR SPOILERS FROM HERE UNTIL THE NEXT STARS******************
My main problems were with the character of Simon and the resolution of the book. We know nothing of his character really which is what caused me to assume him as the culprit from the first mention of his name. He's not even really present at all in the story. Also, why did Jacob keep his visits with Amy a secret from his wife????
Overall, I was disappointed in the fact that I had everything figured out early on. I was under the assumption there would be some major twist at the end, as this book was compared to Gone Girl and TGOTT. However, it was clever and interesting enough to keep me turning the pages, mainly due to Alex's alcoholism, so I thought that merited the bump up to a 3 star read.
Loved this book from start to finish.
This psychological thriller is about a journalist, Alex Dale who when visiting a hospital notices a face from the past. A young girl, Amy Stevenson was attacked 15 years ago and the crime was never solved is lying in a hospital bed, the journalist feels a compulsion to seek out the truth. The book shifts from present to past as the story and the truth unfold. Well paced and strong believable characters that had me reading it at every opportunity. An excellent book in the same league as 'Girl on a train' and 'Gone Girl' and I can't believe this is a debut novel.
I would like to thank Net Galley and Random House for giving me a copy of this novel in exchange for a honest review.
I wish to thank Holly Seddon, Net Galley and Ballantine Books for an advanced copy of Try Not to Breathe in exchange for an unbiased review.
Try Not to Breathe, the debut novel of British author Holly Seddon, is an excellent psychological tale of suspense. It follows the story of Alex Dale, a disgraced journalist who is struggling to regain not only her respectability, but also her life, which she essentially lost to the ravages of the bottle. Alex is working on a freelance investigative article looking into the story of Amy Stevenson, a young woman left in an apparent vegetative state after being attacked and raped in 1995. The novel takes place over a 15-year time frame. The POV alternates amongst several voices as the timeline flips back and forth between the present and various periods in the previous decade and a half (not confusing to the reader). Alex struggles with her addiction to alcohol and her self-shame as she strives to bring some closure to Amy’s ordeal and simultaneously some meaning to her own life, by finding out what really happened the night Amy was abducted.
Looking at some of the previous reviews, it appears some readers did not care for Alex. Though she is certainly flawed, I liked her. I think what drew me to her was her determination to salvage whatever she could from her shambled life. Despite others giving up on her, she was not going to give up on herself. I do wish there had been a bit more back history that would have helped explain how she fell so low. I also cared a great deal for Jacob, Amy’s high school sweetheart, though some of his decision-making was frustratingly questionable.
The story grabbed me right away and the ongoing suspense led me to turn the pages quickly. The plotline is fairly complex and I was making mental notes of all the curious “maybe clues” that came on a regular basis. I have to say I was a little disappointed when the identity of the baddie was revealed. I cannot say why, however, without spoilers. On the other hand, I was very pleased with the rest of the ending. It was not “Hollywood”, but more like what would happen in the real world.
Overall, I was very entertained by Try Not to Breathe. I read it faster than most books I read, which is always a good sign. I recommend this tale to all lovers of mystery and suspense. I will definitely be looking out for Ms. Seddon’s next book, which I hope will arrive sooner rather than later.
4.5 ★★★★"Killer Secret" Stars
POV: First Person – Shifting
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2016
“I played tennis again. I played tennis and I won.”
This was definitely one of those books where you open it and you just can't put it down...you try to sleep but you can't stop thinking about what is going to happen next, You try to guess who the bloody killer is and finally you reached the end and you can breathe again without even realizing you were holding your breath the entire time. At the beginning it was a bit slow start for me with so many characters POV to keep track of; however soon I got to know each character and I wanted more of them.
We meet Amy Stephenson who at only 15 years old had a secret and that secret will hunt the entire world. She left school one day and never made it home. Now 15 years later she finds herself in a hospital and with no recollection of what had happened in past. Her mind is still of a 15yr old inside a body of a 30yrs old in a bed with no ability to speak of feel or move. However; in her head she is still in high school with her boyfriend Jake and her best friends Jenny and Becky and there are still signs of movements in her brain.
Alex Dale; a thirty year old female journalist who was dealing with life crisis. She lost her mother, her child, her job and lastly; her husband left her due to her alcohol addiction. Alex was writing a profile piece for a weekend supplement on the work of Dr. Haynes, a scientist researching brain scans that picked up signs of communication in patients. She came across Amy while at the hospital interviewing Dr. Haynes and took a deeply interest in her case and she just wanted to know more about her.
“Once we establish a number of different parts of the brain and how to generate a response in those, we can start to ask question and…”
Jacob aka Jake who was Amy's boyfriend fifteen years ago; was struggling with the past and with his wife and soon to be child. He wanted a happy life but keeping things from his wife Fiaona was almost causing him his marriage. However; he meets Alex and he knew it was a dangerous line considering his marriage was on the line but he wanted to help Alex find answers to what really happened to Amy. He joined the journey with Alex to finding answers as to what happened to Amy and try to get to the bottom of it.
Alex developed an obsession to figure this case out and she didn’t stop until she got to the bottom of it. However her addiction was going to be the end of her; she was struggling with the alcohol addiction that will kill her in a year if she didn’t stop. This book had me intrigued and I was deeply interested not only because I wanted the mystery of the killer to be solved but I was also very intrigued on Amy’s brain case I found myself thinking what if that was me or someone I knew of laying on that bed for so long?!. Alex felt the same and while she got to the bottom and ended up cracking the case which was a total mind fuck she ended up finding herself as well because of Amy. I love this story so much, it was much more than what I expected.
There were many suspects, so many questions; the events that happened had me biting my nails. I wanted answers like Alex and Jacob; everyone seems a suspect and it was a nerve wrecking thrilling ride. This book is one I will recommend to all thriller readers. If you are looking for a good mystery/thriller you have found it. Any fans of Cold case files TV will really enjoy this book. This is a new author for me and I can tell you, I love this writing style and I will be reading more of this writer in the future.
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Amy is still alive - with a paralyze body - in a hospital bed - fifteen years later.
As readers, we have questions about this. For fifteen years a boyfriend - Jacob continues to visit her. A little odd??? ( even 'if' he feels love or guilt). Fifteen years is a long time - when you are only a teenage boy from the start.
Alex has experienced more loss in her life than she can handle -and is a heavy daily drinker. At one time she had a successful career as a journalist ....
but now seems closer to killing herself. A doctor told her there was a good chance she would be dead in a year with the amount of alcohol she drinks each day.
In 'trying to take steps in cleaning up her life, Alex begins freelance work as a reporter. She is writing a paper about a neurologist who is making advances with patients who are in a coma in being able to communicate with them. This part of the
story was fascinating to me in itself---( besides who attacked Amy and put her in this condition).
I've always been curious about how much 'coma' patients hear -think- and comprehend about themselves - past & present. If they wake up -- does memory get loss in the awakening transition?
When Alex discovers Amy is one of the patients...she immediately remembers the story about the tragic unsolved crime mystery fifteen years prior. She wants to solve the mystery and bring closure to Amy!
The story goes back and forth in time. The three main characters, Alex, Amy, and Jacob alternate in narrating. Amy never seems to age... (seems to always be 15 years old since the day of this crime against her... even though she is now 30 years of age)..... but it makes sense. It's realistic. Her character feels despondent and gloomy.... yet there is a quiet sweetness to her too.
Alex is an interesting character ...she has so many things she is up against -
She's been shattered once too many times. She pulls her boot straps up -- then they fall down again. We're hoping that she doesn't lose fight ...as we would love to see Alex recover from so her past wounds...as we kinda fall in love with her -flaws and all.
Good story! Did I figure out 'who' Dunn-It? ....I was pretty sure, but not completely ....
I was definitely doing my guessing!
Thank You Random House, Netgalley and Holly Seddon!