Out of Breath: Rebecca Donovan

Out of Breath (Book 3)
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Emma leaves Weslyn and everyone in it behind to attend Stanford University, just as she always intended. A shell of her former self, she is not the same girl. She is broken, and the only way that she’ll be whole again is through forgiveness. Emma must find a way to forgive herself and recognize her own worth before she can receive the love she deserves. This final installment will have readers holding their breath until the very last page.

Reason to Breathe(Book 1)
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"No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?"
In the affluent town of Weslyn, Connecticut, where most people worry about what to be seen in and who to be seen with, Emma Thomas would rather not be seen at all. She’s more concerned with feigning perfection while pulling down her sleeves to conceal the bruises - not wanting anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is. Without expecting it, she finds love. It challenges her to recognize her own worth - but at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she’s desperate to hide. Reason to Breathe is an electrifying page turner from start to finish, a unique tale of life-changing love, unspeakable cruelty, and one girl’s fragile grasp of hope.

Barely Breathing(Book 2)
Add to Goodreads  Buy Amazon/B&NEmma’s struggle with an abusive home life came to a heart pounding conclusion in the final chapters of Reason to Breathe. Now everyone in Weslyn knows Emma’s secret, but Carol can’t hurt Emma anymore. Some are still haunted by the horror of that night, and some must face the repercussions of their choices. Fans of Rebecca Donovan’s debut novel will discover there’s still much to learn about Emma’s life

“Living in the mistakes of your past isn't going to do anything but destroy your future.”
This begins almost two years after the devastating climax of Barely Breathing. Emma left and changed the course of Evan's life. She is at Stanford, where they were supposed to go together. And he is not really as settled into the East Coast as he should be since his heart is in California and he does not have closure.
Emma is making changes in her life. She has new protective room mates and friends Meg, Serena, and Peyton. She finds ways to distract herself and not all of them are healthy.  She is getting out, going to parties, and self medicating a bit with alcohol. She is just existing, not really feeling, and drowning in guilt and feelings of loss. Her best friend Sara is in Paris and relies on her room mates to be Emma's watch dogs. Even another man comes bounding into her life. She does not want to let him in, but somehow he sneaks in just a bit past her defenses although she will not let him in deeper. But he provides a nice distraction from the turmoil of her life. But I was just anticipating the return of Evan. I missed Evan. I needed Evan. The anticipation was seriously killing me!

Then tragedy strikes and Emma is forced to return to Weslyn and face her past and Evan. And of course, even if he is not really wanted there, he is there for her. Before she knows it, past and present are all mixed up for the Summer as they all end up in California. She doesn't want to live in the past, but she has unfinished business with both Evan and Jonathon that keep them all from moving on. But once Evan sees what the last couple of years has done to her, he cannot help but go back into protector mode. Soon he is immersed in their lives and trying to save the girl that was his first love. They have serious issues and years of pain and guilt between them. 

This was the girl I knew. This was the girl I loved. And although I didn’t know what had happened to her, I knew I had to find out.

Can she truly open up, shed her secrets, and face the demons and fears  from her past and begin to heal?

Her friends and Evan are determined to try. Just like the rest of the books in this series, this story is not easy. It is raw, painful, and heart breaking. There is loss, guilt, fear, insecurity, and secrets. But there is also forgiveness, recovery and redemption. It is not a short or simple journey for Emma and she could not have done it alone. It took finding the strength and self forgiveness in order to even begin her journey of  healing and a future. So it was difficult and heartbreaking, but also beautiful and inspiring. 

“I’m afraid. So afraid that if you see who I truly am, you’ll hate me. And I can’t let that happen. I only exist because of you, Evan. You’ve saved me more times than you know. I’m so afraid I’m not worth the breath you gave me. I want to be so much better that this girl in front of you. I want to deserve to let you love me. I just don’t know how.”

"People change. I know this. And we will continue to change. That just means I'll get to fall in love with you again. Because no matter what happens in our lives, what I feel for you will survive anything."

I felt every emotion in this book. I was in anticipation, tense, angry, frustrated, sad, tearful, fearful, and happy. I felt completely connected to these characters after living these stories with them. They are so well developed, so intense, so broken and complex. Her best friend Sara and his brother Jared meant almost as much to me as Emma and Evan. And they had their own troubled journey.  Jonathon was not a big part of this book, but I really felt for him too. And all of the California guys and girls made me smile. And despite having such a dysfunctional family life of her own, Emma was blessed with with a pseudo family that was there to fight for her. 

I was thrilled that in this one we got Evan's point of view mixed in with Emma's! I liked how it flowed together but was still clearly defined. It made the book so much deeper and interesting. Due to the conflicting emotions and the fact that they had both gone through so much during their separation, we really needed to be able to see into Evan's head and heart. He was struggling as much as she was and needed to get answers and deal with his own feelings and issues. 

I felt that this was a wonderful conclusion to this intense poignant series. I was very happy where the story lines went and that is was just as complicated as the others. I would not have expected these characters to just have an easy and happy reconciliation without drama or problems. It would not have been true to their story. I would have liked to have more of an epilogue into the future of all the characters, but was still satisfied. I waited until all three books were out and  read this entire series in one weekend. And I think I would have gone crazy if I had to wait in between books with the cliffhangers in the first two books. Rebecca Donovan knows how to hit you in your gut, shake your foundation, rip your heart out, but then slowly starts to help put you back together. 

In the uneven balance of my life, I'd experienced love and loss. The loss challenged me to be strong, but it was the love that supported me when I was weak. I was a survivor. And now I wanted to focus on living my life. This was just the beginning of our healing. Of being forgiven. I knew I would struggle with it at times, and feel like I was fighting for every breath. I just had to remember, there was always a choice. And I chose to live. I chose to love. I chose to breathe.

Thanks to Rebecca Donovan and netgalley for providing me with a review copy for an honest review. 

Rebecca Donovan 
Optimism seeps from every pore of my body. I truly believe that what's supposed to happen... will! In that regard, I don't know how to give up; it's not part of my biological make up.

I'm a passionate (and some would say, overly enthusiastic) person. I learn by doing (and have been burned more times that I'd like to admit), but I will always throw my entire self into whatever I do - fail or succeed. 

I think this is evident when I write, leaving nothing behind and spilling it all out on the pages. I give it all to my readers - love it or hate it. 

The path I'm on is very often my own, veering off the beaten path at the sight of something more interesting or captivating, getting caught in the vines and thorns in order to experience the beauty and intrigue others often pass by. And I always meet the most interesting people along the way...


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