Author: Anne-Sophie Brasme
Synopsis: Breathe is the haunting confession of nineteen-year-old Charlene Boher. From her prison cell, Charlene recounts her lonely adolescence. Growing up shy and unpopular, Charlene never had many friends. That is, until she meet Sarah, a beautiful and charismatic American-French girl who moved back to Paris for high school. Much to Charlene’s shock and delight, the two girls quickly develop an intense friendship. With Sarah by her side, Charlene finally begins to feel accepted and even loved.
However, after a brief idyllic period, the girls’ relationship becomes rocky and friendship veers towards obsession. As Sarah drops Charlene for older, more glamorous friends, Charlene’s devotion spirals into hatred. Unfolding slowly and eerily towards a shocking conclusion, Breathe is an intense, convincing portrait of a possessive and ambiguous friendship.
Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review!
Well this was an odd little book and I’m not totally sure I enjoyed it. The cover is gorgeous and I love toxic friendships that end in murder stories and with the promise of enough substance for a movie I was willing to give it a try.
Sadly it fell a little short of my expectations.
This book is an English translation of a French novel written by the author when she was only 17. For a teen writer I do think that this a rather mature. But it does lack in some places and I’m not sure if the translation is to blame or what.
This story starts out with the main character, Charlene, in jail. She’s thinking about about what got here there. She starts with her childhood, how she was loved but never really felt it, believed it, or cared. She talks about her first real friendship and how after her BFF left she went on to a new primary school where she lagged behind her classmates in maturity. Everyone was “blossoming” and Charlene was a stick-straight as the boys. She wanted to mature and wasn’t and that caused her to isolate herself. At one point she tries to kill herself (by running too hard and letter her asthma knock her down), but everyone thinks it’s an accident… except for Sarah.
Sarah is an enigmatic girl. She’s wise beyond her years, beautiful, and everyone adores her. She sees through Charlene’s “accident” and confronts her, vowing to basically save her from herself. The two become best friends and Charlene spends all of her time with Sarah and Sarah’s mother who… basically has a revolving line of men coming into her bedroom. Sarah’s life is very liberal compared to Charlene’s unhappy parents and annoying brother. Charlene is enchanted with Sarah and lets Sarah have complete control over her.
After a summer vacation the two girls grow apart. Sarah finds Charlene to be immature. She’s discovered boys and the power that she has to manipulate those around her. Charlene becomes obsessed with Sarah, following her, watching her, and it’s really weird. Charlene starts to talk about a voice inside her compelling her to be with Sarah. And eventually Sarah “saves” Charlene again and becomes her friend but she’s a huge bitch to Charlene and at this point I was just so confused as to why Sarah kept Charlene around. All she did was saw awful things about her and push her around. I guess she enjoyed the power she had over Charlene, but it was just weird. Charlene finally was breaking out of Sarah’s control when she met a boy, a really nice boy, but Sarah eventually lured Charlene back in and Charlene’s obsession had become hate and she formulates a plan to kill Sarah and does so…
and that’s the end.
Like great plot but I just wanted more. More depth, more craze, more obsession. And that’s why I think that a movie fleshing this out will be good. I can already see it in my head and I plan to watch it. But as a book… I don’t see how it can really stand on it’s own in the current world of YA. All I kept thinking about while I was reading this was that Dangerous Girls did it so much better (now THAT is a book I’d love to see turned into a movie!).
But I’m sure that at the time this was written, and the fact that it was written by a teen… that it was quite brilliant then.