JUST BREATHE by Cammie McGovern
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 14 - 18
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Two troubled teens form a deep friendship in a hospital room.

David Sheinman is senior class president and “mascot to the pretty-girl/jock crowd." He’s also an expert at minimizing the life-threatening aspects of his cystic fibrosis. Jamie Turner, a friendless 10th grader at the same school, volunteers at the nearby hospital. After her artist father died by suicide 18 months ago, Jamie fell into a depression so severe she required hospitalization. Now David’s waiting for the lung transplant that, if successful, might extend his life by a few years. In the face of his parents’ denial, he’s struggling to figure out what kind of life he wants given how short it’s likely to be. Alone among the people who visit him, Jamie understands and accepts this truth. She offers him old movies, origami, and the comfort that comes from having already faced death. At the same time, she realizes David is a situational friend—once he’s well enough to leave the hospital, he’ll return to the high school where he’s king and she’s nobody. David’s desire for some degree of normality leads them into a wholly believable, tender tragedy. Told in alternate first-person voices, the novel is extraordinary for its unflinching look at both depression and chronic illness. Without sugarcoating, sentimentalizing, or trivializing either, it never slips into pathos. The depiction of mental health struggles is profoundly accurate and understanding. Major characters are white.

A gift to readers. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-06-246335-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2019