cover image Breathless


Jennifer Niven. Knopf, $18.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5247-0196-3

Claude’s family is a perfect unit of three, until, on the verge of her high school graduation, her parents tell her that they’re splitting up. She’s already filled with uncertainty—will she and her best friend, Saz, stay connected after school ends? Will she lose her virginity? Become the writer she wants to be?—and now the floor feels like it’s been pulled out from under her, even more so when her mother whisks her to a remote island off Georgia’s coast (“This is what it feels like to be exiled”). There, Claude tries to imagine being brave, even as she begins a potentially risky and exciting relationship with handsome, nature-loving Jeremiah, called “Miah.” Niven (Holding Up the Universe) describes this as her most personal novel, which comes through in both the book’s flaws and its strengths. The story begins slowly, and Claude’s torrent of emotions—wanting and not wanting Miah, hating and not hating her father, loving and resenting her mother and best friend—can feel overdescribed. But Niven intimately and sensually depicts Claude’s determination to know herself and her body, and to genuinely connect not just with Miah but with herself. Ages 14–up. [em](Sept.) [/em]