David is a popular senior, class president, on the fast track to college and part of a power couple with A-list girlfriend Sharon. After being home-schooled until eighth grade, Jamie is a loner sophomore who has never been kissed and who is still grieving the loss of her father. These two seemingly mismatched teens meet when David’s usually manageable cystic fibrosis lands him in the hospitable indefinitely and Jamie, a Smile Awhile volunteer, makes her rounds on his floor. In Just Breathe, Cammie McGovern (A Step Toward Falling) traces the development of their tenuous relationship in alternating perspectives.
David and Jamie’s interactions begin with light banter, making origami and watching classic movies. But they turn to deeper discussions as David must confront life-or-death decisions. While ruminating about his future, David decides what really matters in the time he has left. At the top of his growing list is spending more time with Jamie.
At the beginning of this authentic novel, made all the more gripping by David and Jamie’s candid conversations, readers may get the impression that David’s dilemma is the story’s focus. But as they discover more about Jamie’s background, they’ll realize that Jamie is no stranger to being a hospital patient either, and that there’s more going on behind her ability to connect with David’s need for healing.
Just when David and Jamie’s relationship is about to flourish, reality strikes, leaving both teens’ health in precarious situations. The effect is intense, and it pushes the boundaries of friendship and love. Although the future is uncertain for David and Jamie, McGovern leaves readers with a sense of hope in the face of adversity.