McGovern, Cammie. Just Breathe. HarperTeen, 2020. 338p. ISBN: 9780062463357. $18.99. MS, HS ****
The senior class president and a previously home-schooled 10th grader aren’t supposed to even meet, let alone become life changing friends. But David’s in the hospital where Jamie spends most of her after-school hours either volunteering or hanging out with her mom. So as unlikely as it would have seemed to them, a friendship does blossom over old classic movies and origami. If medical histories, families and friends don’t get too far in the way it may turn into something more. In fact they might find more than just each other – they may even find themselves!
This is a sweetly romantic book with positive messages about taking care of yourself and what healthy relationships involve. David and Jamie are appropriately confused and conflicted about their own lives and the relationships they have to each other, their families, and to their friends. Through each other they learn that there are lots of ways to suffer and lots of ways to hide. They also learn there are lots of ways to be friends and lots of ways to be your authentic self. Each has complicated health histories (physical and mental) but there is no real drinking, drugs, violence, or cursing, making this an appropriate title for both middle school and high school audiences. These characters use some decidedly mixed-up teen logic, and there are plot imperfections that pump up the drama, still all of it is grounded in the reality of these two likeably imperfect protagonists. A lack of diversity in the characters (both protagonists are presumed white and straight) is my only complaint, but I will still recommend this to fans of John Green or Jennifer Niven.
-Andrea Mullarkey, Berkeley Public Library – Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch