Breathless – Jennifer Niven

Oh, young love.

Jennifer Niven’s (All the Bright Places ) novel Breathless took me back, way back, to a very particular time in my life. You know, that time when you fall in love and you’re filled with both dread and delight.

Claudine Henry’s life is pretty sweet. She lives with her mother (an acclaimed writer) and her father (works at the local college) in small-town Ohio. She and her best friend, Saz, are about to graduate from high school and embark on a post-graduation road-trip before they head off to their respective colleges. Then her father drops a bombshell: “…your mom and I are separating, and she asked me to tell you because it’s not her idea; it’s my idea.”

Claude is devastated by the news, and it upends her plans and her life. Instead of heading off with Saz, she and her mother make their way to an island off the coast of Georgia. The island has ties to their family and Claude’s mom is going to use the time to do some research and some writing. Claude is going to spend her time being miserable.

That is until she meets Jeremiah Crew. He has a “resting wiseass face” and an easy charm that is almost irresistible. The island is small and it’s impossible for Miah and Claude to avoid each other and it’s clear pretty ear they don’t want to anyway. He’s always around, barefoot and ready with some witty or caustic remark. I think I fell in love with him almost as quickly as Claude did.

As Miah and Claude start to spend more time together, Claude also starts to come to terms with her own life. Being away from Saz (there’s limited WiFi/cell service on the island) causes some tension, and miscommunication. And how is she supposed to navigate this new family dynamic? Her father was her person, the parent she shared morning rituals with, her protector, and now she doesn’t know who he is or how she’s supposed to feel about him. We forget at that age, that our parents are just trying to figure it out, too. Sometimes we get caught up in our own feelings and we forget that our parents have their own stuff to get through. Both Claude’s parents seemed like real people – which is often not the case in YA fiction. I loved Claude’s coming-of-age journey.

Ultimately, though, this is Claude and Miah’s story – and it is swoon worthy. They are eighteen, so this is slightly more NA than YA (and while the sex scenes aren’t particularly graphic, there are some in the book). Their banter is ::chef’s kiss:: awesome. I loved Miah so much.

“Here’s the thing,” Miah tells Claude. “I don’t want you getting too crazy about me, because I’m only here for the next few weeks.”

Trust me, resistance is futile.