Hold Me Like a Breath is an alluring novel, written by Tiffany Schmidt.
Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold — including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.
Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can’t protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.
And in her family’s line of work no one can be safe forever.
All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking… and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.
While Hold Me Like a Breath perhaps isn’t the most compelling novel one could read on a slow Sunday afternoon, it was definitely one that I found entertaining and enthralling. I hadn’t heard anything about this one series before, but the synopsis really drew me in. I’d never read anything about the black market organ trade, and so I found myself both intrigued and mildly concerned. As someone who faints at the sight of blood and feels sick reading about anything remotely nauseating, I was slightly worried that this wouldn’t be the right book for me. But let me clear everything up right now: there are no scenes that are at all graphic in that area. Think of this black market operation as more of a family business, like buying shares or investing in a second property, only with a lot more talk of bodily muscles and tissues.
I actually feel like I learnt quite a lot while reading this book, which might be surprising. I wasn’t even aware that there was a whole black market for organs, but I guess it makes sense. Even though I hadn’t been exposed to anything like this before, I understood very quickly how it might operate and why these people believe in what they’re doing. What I didn’t expect from this novel was for it to be as policy-heavy as it was. There aren’t a lot of scenes about politics, but when there were, I really got to know the argument for both sides in regards to the proposal that the donation of organs with a monetarily compensation for the donor should be legalised. I love it when books broaden my horizon and teach me something new, and Hold Me Like a Breath definitely did that.
Another thing I loved about this novel were the parts that were set in New York City. Having just been there a year or so ago, I found reading Hold Me Like a Breath filled me with nostalgia for this vibrant and bustling city. I could picture myself standing next to Penelope as she walked through the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History, hear the familiar sounds of the breakfast buzz at a cafe she frequented, and saw the sight of people walking and kids playing on the abundant green grass in Central Park. Hold Me Like a Breath reinstated me with a sense of wonder and wanderlust, and I adored roaming the streets of New York City once again.
Penelope was an interesting character to get to know, if not a little annoying. She suffers from a rare autoimmune disease whereby her body destroys its own platelets and causes any pressure on her skin to leave bruising and cause a drop in the number of the platelets, which can mean the difference between life and death. Like the black market for organs, I didn’t really know about this disease either and I found learning about it quite fascinating, as it actually affects people outside of fiction too. Because of this, the people around her are overly protective of her and I could really connect to the frustration she felt because of being wrapped in cotton wool her whole life.
However, Penelope’s character was what brought down this book for me, sadly. I felt that readers were meant to be positioned to feel sorry for her, but it was difficult to feel anything for her when she was constantly whining and nagging and being generally clueless. In the beginning, I brushed off these things because she was obviously having a hard time with her condition and it made life quite difficult. But the more the story progressed, the more I realised that it had little to do with her condition. Yes, perhaps that had made her into the frustrating little annoying brat she was, but she wasn’t doing anything to actively change that apart from moan about how useless she was. I felt that she didn’t provide the novel with anything important, besides the attempt to gain the reader’s sympathy. And I’d hoped to see a development in her character whereby she became a stronger and more independent young woman, but unfortunately, that never happened.
Lastly, let’s talk about the romance. This was another weak aspect of the novel, which was disappointing. When I started reading Hold Me Like a Breath, I was quite happy with how the romance aspect was progressing. Penelope had a crush on a guy for years, they finally kiss… and cue big, plot changing event! They’re separated, and Penelope finds herself in a place where she knows no one. And then, of course, she bumps into Guy #2. Insta-love alert! I felt like there should have been way too much happening in Penelope’s life for her to fall head-over-heels for this guy so quickly. But hey, I suppose this book had to keep people interested somehow.
But while I didn’t like a number of aspects of this novel, it still kept me engaged and wanting to find out what happened at the end. It was quite amusing in parts and while I sometimes laughed at it, rather than with it, it was a rather pleasurable read overall — despite its many flaws. But realistically, I’d only recommend this book if all the book shops and libraries in your neighbourhood burnt down and a copy of Hold Me Like a Breath was the only salvageable book left. Or if, you know, you’re really into the black market organ trade. It’s readable, but I wouldn’t say it should be on your list.
Have you read Hold Me Like a Breath? Do you have similar opinions on the issues I raised? Have you read any other books about black market trade? What are your thoughts on insta-love? Let me know down below!
Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!
Title: Hold Me Like a Breath
Publication date: July 1st, 2016
Australian RRP: $12.99