BOOK REVIEW – Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5) by Miranda KenneallyBreathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #5)
by Miranda Kenneally
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Synopsis:

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

This book was everything. Everything & more. 

Breathe, Annie, Breathe is a beautiful story about loss, healing and new beginnings. About taking some risks in life, about never losing the ability to enjoy the here and now. The story made me laugh and cry, it made me smile like a goofball and it made me clutch my kindle to my heart because it was just so cute and heartbreaking and wonderful. Basically, it gave me all the emotions and really, those are always the best kind of books.

We stick together, and it makes me feel a little better knowing that, even at thirty-two, Liza hasn’t figured her life out yet. Maybe you don’t have to figure life out at all. Maybe it just is.

I’ve been running on and off since I was in 8th or 9th grade and I’ve always found that it was one of the best ways to de-stress, to think things over, to get away from everything for awhile, to just breathe. Afterwards everything seems clearer and not so overwhelming anymore.

So with that in mind, I loved reading about someone who was new to the whole running experience, about someone, who always hated it, getting to know the beauty and power of it.
See, Annie Winters, the heroine of this story, has never been into sports, but when Kyle, her boyfriend of three years, dies tragically, she starts training for a marathon, the marathon Kyle always wanted to run. It was his dream, a goal he had since he was a kid, so Annie decides to finish what he started in his honor.
But how do you even attempt to train for a marathon, to run 26 miles if you have no experience whatsoever? Exactly, you get help. Annie joins a training program where she gets an entire meal and training plan that’s going to prepare her for the big thing, the marathon.
And that’s how she meets Jeremiah Brown. Jere is the younger brother of Matt, the guy who owns the program and trains Annie and the others. He’s a runner himself and often helps Matt with the training. Jere and Annie have probably one of the cutest girl-meets-boy scenes out there. It was so funny and I liked them both immediately, a fact that never changed over the course of the book.

A boy streaks by me, running backwards. He settles directly in front of me and goes even faster.
“Are you freaking kidding me?” I gasp.
He grins and slows to a jog. “What?”
“You’re running faster than me and I’m going forward!”
“So speed up then!”
What an ass.

Annie is quite possibly one of my favorite YA contemporary heroines. She works hard, she knows what she wants and, as Jeremiah pointed out, she’s tough as nails. I found her so relatable and never got tired of reading from her POV! That we went through completely different things didn’t matter at all; she is so well written and realistic that I could totally imagine meeting and befriending her in real life. Annie is very mature for her age which I appreciated a lot and she’s just so much fun, in spite of the fact that she went through so much already.

When I try to protest, he says, “My parents always say that if a guy invites a girl someplace, he pays for it. It doesn’t matter if we’re dating or not.”

Meet Jeremiah alias Jere alias Running Backwards Boy, the guy who stormed to the top of my favorite-YA-contemporary-heroes list and stole my heart.
Jeremiah is so many things. A runner. An adrenaline junkie. A gentleman. A former sort-of player. A patient friend. A total sweetheart who opens the door for Annie, absolutely adores his little sisters, who can run a marathon any day of the week and make any girl fall in love with him. Oh, and he has a southern accent, blue eyes, a tattoo of a comic superhero and a weakness for a certain blond ‘tough as nails’ girl. I completely fell in love with this guy.

“Yeah, that’s the scariest threat ever. You’d be sending me to a bathing suit party.”
“I know you’d rather stay here with me.” Crap. Where did that come from?
“Fine,” he says with a smirk. “We’ll watch Mean Girls, whatever that is.”

It’s not a common occurrence for me to cry during the first 20% of a book, but that’s exactly what happened while reading this story. It was supposed to be my light read actually – don’t ask me where I got that idea – but before I knew it, I was BAWLING. I had to stop at 23% because I was so upset, I was crying my eyes out. It took me forever to calm down because I kept thinking of this story which started another cry-fest. It was ugly.
This story has so much pain in it, especially in the beginning, that I almost couldn’t take it. Annie’s feelings, her heartbreak and loneliness, it was everywhere, all over the pages. It made me think that maybe you can die from a broken heart after all.

I buy some popcorn from the concession stand, then sit on the hood of my car and laugh at all the funny parts, wishing he was laughing along with me.

But then, at some point, the healing progress sets in and suddenly the story becomes this beautiful, hopeful thing and the dark clouds retreat into the background for the time being, never completely gone, but nowhere as all-consuming anymore.

“Aren’t you gonna run up front and try to win?”
“I’d rather run with you.”
“You want to come in 5,094th place?”
His mouth quirks into a smile. “I don’t care.”
“Jeremiah? You make me happy.”
“You make me happy too,” he says quietly.

I loved reading about every character in this book. Of course, the Jere and Annie scenes were my absolute favorites. The banter was sweet and funny, the relationship realistic and their friendship absolutely beautiful. Watching those two support each other and help the other become a better version of themselves was magical. I couldn’t get enough of it.

“I’ve never wanted a relationship with a girl before you. My life moved too fast to slow down for anybody. But this entire summer I’ve been going slow. I’ve been waiting for you. And I can wait as long as you need. I can’t say I know how you feel or tell you how to feel better, but I can wait. I’ll be your friend.”

The other characters all brought some balance to the story. From Iggy, the self-proclaimed hipster who gave me some serious laugh out loud moments, over Liza’s wisdom and Jeremiah’s adorable sisters and Annie’s caring brother, to Kelsey, Vanessa and all the others who helped to bring Annie back to life and gave the story some more liveliness as well. I can’t describe how much they’ve all come to mean to me.

“Right now is Liza time. I’m running this marathon because I want to get in shape and do something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not a reason to meet guys. Taking time for yourself is always okay.”

This book is full of hope, full of inspiring quotes, full of hope and heartbreak, beauty and pain. I beg you to just go ahead and read it.

If you don’t put yourself out there, if you don’t take risks, you can’t truly feel. And I’m ready to feel again.

 

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