cover image Try Not to Breathe

Try Not to Breathe

Jennifer R. Hubbard. Viking, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-670-01390-6

In her second novel, Hubbard (The Secret Year) compellingly portrays the quiet anguish of “after.” Sixteen-year-old Ryan has endured too much in a year—a new school, mono, romantic rejection, and a suicidal gesture that sends him to a psychiatric facility. Now he is coping with the reality that there is no tidy closure to these events, much less a happy ending. He has to go back to school, to the same parents, and to adolescence, and nothing has gotten easier while he’s been gone. His only friends are the ones he made in the hospital, and the “Patterson Honesty” they communicated with there has given way to more socially palatable half-lies. The kids at school, meanwhile, just sneak glances at him or mock him as “creepy.” Then he befriends Nicki—younger, bolder, and persistent—who demands that Ryan put into words what he has gone through, and everything starts to change. Hubbard is outstandingly successful at capturing the frustration of not having the words, especially in a culture that does not encourage boys to express what Ryan is feeling. Ages 14–up. Agent: Curtis Brown. (Jan.)