Ten Tiny Breaths was a strong beginning to a new series. This is the follow-up book with the story of Casey’s sister, Livie, who has come of age and now its her time to go off to college. Livie is the one who has followed the rules, studied hard and had a clear direction in her life, but Casey worries that because of all they have been through that Livie is locked down and suppressing even if she doesn’t realize it herself. Casey being Casey, this means that she sets up an unorthodox plan to help break Livie loose that include the PTSD therapist, Dr. Staynor and Jell-O Shots.
Livie finds herself at a wild off-campus party with her sister, Casey, and new roommate, Reagan. Both of them have no trouble making friends and living it up, but for Livie the party just showcases her shyness and unease with social situations. But after downing a ginormous number of Jell-O shots, even the repressed Livie starts to get loose and that’s when it happens. As she goes to toss back another shot, she is interrupted when a hot guy leans in and licks the shot right out of her mouth. Livie’s response? A shot to his jaw. More Jell-O shots bring oblivion and she wakes up the next morning to a hangover and the knowledge that she broke loose the beast inside and accomplished a lot of firsts with the biggest manwhore on campus, Ashton Henley who is also the popular captain of the men’s rowing team.
Ashton makes it clear that he is not dating material and pushes her toward his best friend and roommate, Connor, who is interested in Livie and fits with her life plan better. Livie was hurt by his rejection, but agrees that Connor does fit better. Unfortunately, frequent encounters with Ashton leave her forgetting this fact much of the time. Livie, who is coming of age in so many ways spends her first year of college making monster mistakes and learning what Casey and Dr. Staynor have been trying to tell her- she has been living a lie. Now that she has to figure out who the real Livie is and what she wants. Most importantly to her is will it include a certain guy.
This story was a tough one for me to get into and finish in many ways, but I pressed on surprisingly. I liked the author’s voice and writing style. Her ability to put me into a scene and make me feel a part of things was well done. Larger than life and endearing characters like Casey, Dr. Staynor, Reagan and Ashton made me smile, laugh and tear up. Livie was the problem. She is the first person narrator who was a decent narrator when she wasn’t stuck in her own head. Livie’s journey in this one had its triumphant moments. It was easy to see that she was going to get into trouble. She was complacent and oblivious strictly because she sees herself as the responsible, stable and smart sister who came through unscathed from their parents’ death and her sister’s issues. She has to make a lot of mistakes before she finally starts to grow. I liked seeing her grow, but unfortunately, I was no where near thrilled about the actual process or the key mistakes she made.
My issues are that unwittingly this story hit a few hot-points for me. I don’t like cheating and this book offered not one, but two characters cheating. It also provided a character who refused to do the right thing because she was both too self-focused and then too chicken so she used a perfectly nice and worthy guy- breaking his heart. I was truly angry because it wasn’t an issue of not knowing better so these were really not mistakes, but conscious choices. So no, this stuff didn’t fly with me.
Ashton is a really messed up guy. His secrets were crushing. His dad who never actually gets into a present scene is the villain of this story. I felt a bit blood thirsty about his punishment when all of Ashton’s story came out. Ashton kept saying that from the casual eye he had no business feeling caged and miserable in his lot since he had all the luxury that money could buy, but really his life was not his own and his dad controlled everything. And when I got near the end and learned all that man did? Oh! I was blinking back tears and angry. Ashton’s partying and issues with girls was his way of striking out at those chains of control his dad had on him. Was it right? No. Did I understand? Yes. He knew that Livie was his forever girl and his Kryptonite and he tried to do the right thing, but he couldn’t keep away.
Livie had this game plan that included good grades, straight-arrow life, helping kids, right guy and right career that would all win that post-grave smile of approval from her dad. Ashton didn’t fit the plan, but she was fixated on him. She held tight to safe Connor the whole time. I understood the need to try to get over the guy with the issues for the one who had it together, but it was her lying, cheating, and then unjust ‘need to find stuff wrong with Connor so its his fault when I break it off’ attitude that pushed me passed any sympathy for her. She spends 90% of her time sneaking around with Ashton and gets mad at Connor because Connor doesn’t ‘understand’ or ‘get her’. Then he gets a little tight at a party and she treats him like he is disgusting her all because it gives her an excuse to run to Ashton and do what she wanted to do in the first place. No respect and it was me feeling the disgust.
So, for obvious reasons, I didn’t have a good time with this one. I could still appreciate lots of good things about the book and the author’s writing will lead me to pick up the next book to see if new characters and situations make it better. For those who aren’t riled by the issues I brought up and like NA Contemporary then you will probably really enjoy this one.
My thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review thoughts.
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