Tuesday, December 28, 2010

BREATHLESS by Jessica Warman

Brothers and sisters have different relationships.  Katie and her brother Will have always had an unusual one.  Will may have been older by five years and at times acted like an older brother, but Katie spent most of her life protecting him.  They shared a bond that even a mental health facility and a boarding school didn't manage to destroy.

Katie remembers endless psychotic episodes followed by medication and therapy.  Even though their father was a renowned therapist, Will's schizophrenia threatened to ruin the family.  Katie witnessed her mother's stress and her father's helplessness each time Will snapped.  When he brutally attempted to end his life on the neighbor's swing set, Katie knew things were beyond their control.

After the suicide attempt, Will was admitted to a treatment facility, and Katie's parents informed her that she would be leaving her local school and going off to boarding school.  Katie surprised herself when she realized she was ready to leave family behind to make a fresh start.  All that really mattered was that the school had a swim team so she could continue with the one thing that gave her a feeling of peace and freedom.

Life at boarding school does free Katie from the pressures at home, and she even tells her new acquaintances that her brother died.  She soon discovers that she isn't the only one with secrets.  An unusual friendship develops between Katie and her roommate Mazzie.  As it becomes evident that Mazzie has her own demons, Katie wonders if perhaps they can work together to put the past behind them.

BREATHLESS is a hard-hitting look at the toll mental illness takes on family and friends.  Katie learns about compassion and acceptance as she faces the tragic facts about her brother's illness and his place in her future.   

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