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Review: A Breath Too Late

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m featuring Rocky Callen’s debut novel, A Breath Too Late.

Back of Book Blurb

For fans of Girl in Pieces, All the Bright Places, and Girl, Interrupted comes a haunting and breathtaking YA contemporary debut novel that packs a powerful message: hope can be found in the darkness.

Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to re-assemble. There's her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists. And Ellie's determined to find out why a piece of her was left behind.

Told in epistolary-like style, Rocky Callen's deeply moving A Breath Too Late sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places. Perfect for fans of the critically-acclaimed Speak, I’ll Give You the Sun, and If I Stay.



Before I even get into what a powerful story this is, I must gush over the cover. It‘s stunning, props to the design team. Okay, now that I got that out of the way …

This novel explores the complexity of suicide while also delivering a message of hope. After taking her life, Ellie experiences in out-of-body experience in which she retraces the events of her life. While the topics themselves (abuse, depression, violence) are heavy, Callen weaves the story in a way that makes this title a piece of art. The depth of her characters and their experiences feel so real that I recommend having a box of tissues nearby.

On top if that, the prose is just beautifully written. I highly recommend this novel. Callen is a master at her craft.



A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year

Kirkus Best Book of the Year

"Raw, heartbreaking, and poignant."

New York Times-bestselling author Kathleen Glasgow

"An exquisitely played love song to life, in all of its hurts, wonders, memories, and loves."

–Jeff Zentner, Morris Award winning author of The Serpent King and Goodbye Days

"A haunting story, punctuated with brilliant points of hope and light. This is an important story. A necessary story . . . Callen’s writing radiates with passion, honesty and love."

–National Book Award finalist and Printz Award–winning author An Na



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