Series: Once Upon A Crime Family, #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: May 19th, 2015
Genres: Action, Fairytale Retelling, YA
Source: Received in exchange for review
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Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants. Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.
And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever. All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.
I have rather mixed feelings on this one. There are parts of this story which I enjoyed, and others not so much. Initially it was the premise that drew me into this one. A fairytale retelling of the Princess and The Pea? Crime family politics, in the business of black market organ transplants? It seemed like the perfect mixture, my two favorite sub-genres in YA (fairytale retellings and crime novels) coming together. However, the execution of the aforementioned left a little bit to be desired and frankly I’m disappointed.
I found the fairytale retelling part of the plot to be strong, with subtle nods to the original The Princess and The Pea (and Rapunzel too) while also twisting it and developing it so we got to see more of the “princess’s” side of the story. I really enjoyed the references included and found that the retelling was done in an ingenious sort of way. For example, in the original story the Princess bruises easily. In Hold Me Like A Breath, our “princess” Penny has Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (an autoimmune disease that causes extreme easy bruising) which not only connects to the fairytale but also managed to educate me on something I didn’t even know existed. In that way it spread awareness about ITP and I can tell the author really did her research.
My issues lied in the crime part of the novel. I felt it was because of how sheltered Penny was from the crime ring led to us readers being in the dark about the inner-workings and politics of it. These are the things that I was most interested going into that novel and in the aspect I found myself disappointed. I felt as while we were told the impact/influence the crime family had (and certainly showed the power, there’s no shortage of character deaths in this one), but never really to the levels of political intricacy I felt possible. I feel like there was lost potential with how in depth Schmidt could have gone with the dark nature of the black market organ transplant families.
I’ve talked about the “princess” a couple times in this review. That “princess” is Penny, the main character. She was an very interesting sort of main character. I can definitely see how a lot of people wouldn’t like her. At first Penny reads as naive, sheltered, overly innocent, prone to making stupid choices and frankly an juvenile child. And you know what? Up the beginning of many tragic events to come, I’d say she is one hundred percent all of these things. In fact, it was her initial personality (annoying, but understandable given her autoimmune disease and treatment of her family) that was my reason for me not feeling any connection for the first 5 chapters of the story. At that point I was even considering DNF’ing, just because I found the story to be going quite slow and Penny was driving me a little crazy.
However, once that first tragic scene happened- damn. I got invested in the story fast, and I think it says something that for the first 5 chapters I was slogging through and suddenly I felt like crying. It was after this event (and several more) where you slowly see Penny go through some brilliant development and really grows into a strong character, despite her and disease and all of the tragedies she’s suffered. I loved her growth so much, and came to appreciate her character by the end of the novel. Penny’s certainly not strong in the traditional YA sense of “badass”, but oh my god. By the end of the novel I wanted to give her a standing ovation for her emotional strength. I think these quotes (spoken by Penny) really showcase what I’m trying to put into words:
“You don’t get to decide if something is too dangerous for me. That’s never your decision; it’s mine.”
“You don’t get to choose to keep me on the sidelines. I’m not saying I want to go rushing into dangerous situations, but trust me enough to make my own decisions.”
Moving on from Penny, my biggest issue in Hold Me Like a Breath one was the romance. I had a lot of issues with the romance, which is problematic because this one focuses extensively on romance (unfortunately in my view). It’s gonna be really hard for me to talk about this without using spoilers, so I’m going to go about it very generally and then put the more detailed information in spoilers. Speaking generally, I felt myself having no emotional connections to either (yes, there’s two. But don’t worry about a love triangle because one love interest gets suddenly forgotten about in favor of the other) love interests nor the romance they had with Penny. One ran too hot & cold, leaving me honestly feeling confused- even at the end of the story. Meanwhile, the other romance felt too rushed for my liking and convenient.View Spoiler » Okay so the romances didn’t work for me. It was a love triangle but not??? So first we have Penny just completely in love Garret which could have been believable given their history. However, I could never tell if he ever really loved Penny as he was so hot & cold. His sacrifice at the end of the book suggests he does. But then we got Penny, who was so in love with him she was willing to run away from her family and everything she knows. Then after Penny’s parents deaths she’s on her own in the apartment and Garret is on Penny’s mind 24/7. However, Penny suddenly meets Char and BOOM. Bye bye all existing thoughts of Garret and she falls heads over heels for him- super quickly in my view. It didn’t make sense to me how suddenly dropped Garret and fell in love for Char. It doesn’t feel realistic « Hide Spoiler
Overall I unfortunately am torn about Hold Me Like a Breath. I loved the fairytale aspects and strong character development of the main character. I had issues with the romance, initial pacing/direction of the story and unmet potential in regards to the crime ring.
~Thank you Bloomsbury USA Childrens for the review copy~
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