The Place Between Breaths by An Na (9781481422253)
Grace lives a quiet life at home with her father as he searches out the best scientists in the world to find the gene that controls schizophrenia, the mental illness that stole Grace’s mother from them. In a series of flashbacks, Grace’s life is laid out. From her work as an intern at her father’s workplace to her connection with a young researcher to her best friend’s struggle with an unexpected pregnancy. Grace is systematic and has routines that govern her life. She is definitely not her mother. But as her life starts to twist and change, Grace must face the truth about what is happening.
This book is nearly impossible to talk about without spoilers and a large part of what makes this book so successful is the journey of realization that the reader takes along with Grace. The book is multilayered and complex, each chapter taking place in a season, but the seasons are not necessarily in the same years at all. There are flashbacks, chapters that are surreal, others that are frighteningly strange and still others that offer sudden clarity about what is happening. It is a book designed to confuse and reveal, a dance of dizziness that is all-encompassing.
It is the writing here that shines, moments on the page become incredibly meaningful and it’s a book that will have readers turning back to previous chapters to read them in the light of what was just discovered. It’s a puzzle of a book, a deep look at the chaos of mental illness and a profound experience to read.
Masterfully written, this is a harrowing depiction of mental illness in a family. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.