Days before her high school graduation, Claudine’s parents announce that they’re divorcing. She and her mom will spend Claude’s last summer before college on an island in Georgia with spotty Wi-Fi and relentless mosquitoes. Claude feels like the floor’s been pulled out from under her until she meets Jeremiah, the enigmatic islander who sees through every wall she puts up. Slowly but surely, Claude and Jeremiah rebuild her foundations, taking risks with their hearts and control of their lives.
As in Jennifer Niven’s previous YA novels, Breathless introduces its protagonist at a moment when her world feels upside down, confronting her struggles head-on. For Claude, these include the emotional fallout from her parents’ divorce and her growing desire to have sex before she heads off to college. (Though she knows virginity is a patriarchal construct, Claude is ready to lose hers ASAP.)
Although Claude’s parents and the novel’s other adult characters lack dimensionality, the teens—including Claude, Jeremiah and Claude’s best friend, Saz—are all richly developed, deep flaws and all. Claude and Jeremiah’s romance has just the right amount of sweetness as they grapple with the line between love and lust, what it means to feel grounded and what they might mean to each other once the summer comes to a close.
Breathless is a frank and tender novel of self-discovery that fans of Sarah Dessen’s transformational summer romances and John Green’s stories of poignant self-discovery and difficult growth will enjoy.