Try Not To Breathe

Try Not to Breathe: A Novel - Holly Seddon

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

An OK read, though I wouldn't go further than that. I could guess easily enough who the culprit was (there are plenty of hints if you pay attention), and while chasing those was fun, in retrospect, there weren't many really “suspenseful” moments—everything was well-packed by the end.

Told through the point of view of three characters mostly, the story deals with the mystery surrounding the coma in which Amy Stevenson has spent the past 15 years of her life, after having been assaulted and left for dead. She's still here, in her head, her mind still active, but very sluggishly, as if one year was perhaps only one day for her, and she's first convinced she's just sick, or hungover. Her only visitors are Jacob, who cannot let go, and Alex, a journalist struggling with alcoholism and the health problems that will follow (ironically enough, Alex used to be a successful health columnist). As Alex gets intrigued by Amy's fate, feeling close to her both geographically and in age, she starts digging into past events, trying to figure out if there's still a way to bring justice to the victim here, or if all trails have now gone forever cold.

I'd say the premises are definitely interesting, but the way the story unfolded was a bit... boring. Partly because of the style, that regularly was more about telling than showing (especially in the beginning), partly because, as previously mentioned, I thought there wasn't enough tension, not enough at stake—I didn't feel the sense of urgency and danger I like to find in mystery and triller novels, that foreboding, impending certainty that “something” is going to happen to the main character before the end. I also think I expected something different when it came to Amy's involvment: different ways of communicating, maybe, instead of Alex sitting next to her bed and talking? Or something closer to Amy slowly waking up, or desperately trying to let the world know what she knew, and failing due to her body not responding?

The characters in general weren't as fleshed out nor as interesting as I had hoped; in fact, they were more often annoying than anything else. Alex's drinking problem, how she screwed up her career and marriage, weren't such a “dark” background as a somewhat idiotic one (that is, her reactions, her way of going about a lot of things didn't make me think she was a clever person). Jacob's wobbly relationship with Fiona felt mainly like something that could've been dealt with in five minutes if the characters had been remotely willing to communicate—that was a no-brainer for me, I don't even see why Jacob had to lie at first. (And let's be honest, while Fiona's reactions can be viewed as understandable, considering that she had had a bad experience in the past, the way she immediately jumped to conclusions and put on the drama queen act weren't exactly encouraging for Jacob to start spilling the beans, making her appear like a harpy, and making me wonder if such a partner would be worth the trouble. But then, I guess I'm just not one to deal with high-maintenance people anyway.)

Conclusion: Interesting theme, but that would have worked better with more tension, and perhaps a different involvment of the comatose character. 2.5 stars.