I was lucky enough to be approved for an ARC of this title, from both the amazing author Katie McGarry and NetGalley. I accepted the ARC in exchange for an honest review, which is what you are reading now! As always, here is the disclaimer, this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest looking away now, or head over to my GoodReads HERE for a look at my spoiler-free review!
Only A Breath Apart – Katie McGarry
Published January 22nd 2019 by Tor Teen
I wasn’t sure that I would like this book, after reading the first chapter, but that is because they are written from the points of view of the main characters, when they were seven and eight years old. They were hard to read, not because of the content, but because of the characters age. But once I got into chapter 3, Scarlett’s chapter, I was immediately reminded of how amazing Katie McGarry’s writing is and I became captivated.
I am intrigued by the idea of ‘the land’ and how it protects people, how it allows them to see things, to talk with angels. I can’t wait to learn more about that aspect of this book.
I feel that before I get too far into this post, I need to say that this book deals with some rather intense things. These things are physical and psychological abuse, victimization, all within the family setting. So if you have any issues relating to the above aspects, I would advise not continuing on with reading this post or with reading the book. The father in this book is quite intense and it can be uncomfortable to read.
I am about 30% in and I am enjoying it. I feel that this book may be a little more intense than McGarry’s previous works. The intensity of Scarlett’s father is incredible. To the point where it is hard to read the scenes where they are interacting. The tension between them fills the air like water, making it hard to breathe and to read. He is such an intense man, in general. I can sort of understand where his controlling obsession comes from, losing his sister when she went off to college has driven him crazy with worry that something will happen to his daughter, if he doesn’t keep her safe, only he is killing her, smothering her with each demand he makes, with each verbal attack.
He put a tracking app on her phone without her knowing, he won’t let her go to the college that offers the course she wants to do because he can’t control her if she is in Kentucky. He won’t allow her to gt a job, because he wants her to focus on school, even though she is a straight a student, set to graduate early. And he sure as heck doesn’t want her spending time with Jesse. He never has. This relationship is so toxic, not just Scarlett and her father, but her mother and father as well. This is where I feel the most uneasy within this story. Watching her mother take the abuse, verbal and physical and justify it, making it seem okay, when it clearly isn’t. I totally understand that McGarry is trying to shed some light on family violence, but I wasn’t ready for the magnitude of it within this book.
Let’s talk about Jesse. What an interesting young man. Finally we get some insight into why he pushed Scarlett away. It wasn’t because of anything she had said or done, it was because of the family curse. There is folklore that Lachlins are cursed, the people that they love will all die around them, and it has been happening all of Jesse’s life. So rather than risk Scarlett’s life, he pushes her away. It is so easy to see how much he cares for her, no matter how horrible she is to him, he just wants to help her. To see her happy and to succeed.
Jesse is in a bit of a pickle though. I can’t imagine being 17, having no family left and wanting to take over a farm. Taking on the responsibility of the farm as well as finishing school, and all of the growing up that comes with being 17. It is actually hard to see him as being that young. He comes off as being much older, more like 25. But I think that is the point, for us to see him as mature, as wise and knowledgeable about the choices he is making. And it all goes back to how his mum told him to never leave the land. Jesse even talks of how he can’t breathe, but walking on his land takes the pain away. I am still waiting to learn more about the folklore and magic of the land.
I am worried that Jesse and Scarlett are going to fix their friendship… relationship? And then Scarlett is going to think that Jesse only started working to patch things up because he needs her to vote for him to keep the farm. And even though in the start, I think that is exactly the reason that he started talking to her again, he loves her.
Crisis averted, he told her about needing her vote and Scarlett took it in her stride, she didn’t flinch. She knows as much as he does that he belongs on that land. It is as much a part of him as he is of it.
So finally, Jesse and Scarlett have finally kissed, it just felt like it was meant to be, it felt right for the story too. He gives her a strength that she needed to make it through her home life. He lets her be her true self, no judgement, no pressures, just kindness, honesty and love. I love their connection with the land, how they can feel it breathing, feel its movements and its power. I’m also enjoying the spiritual element, I was hoping that there was a little more of it throughout the book, but it is cool that there is a psychic element included with the talk of curses and magic in the earth.
I am about 70% in and I am so worried that something terrible is coming. This is because, nothing remotely chaotic has happened yet. It has all been back story and context building, it has been amazing. And all amazing things must come to an end, in fiction anyway. I am so scared that something other than Jesse and Scarlett is going to pull them apart, that Jesse will lose the farm and Scarlett may lose her family.
Okay wow. This guy is an arsehole. He is actually charging Jesse with kidnapping… what the heck. He can’t even stop for a second to listen to his daughter long enough to see how she is feeling or what she wants, because he is so obsessed with control that he can’t imagine that she would do something like, get in a car with a boy, of her own free will. This man is scary. I am sitting here, almost too scared to read the next few chapters, I can’t see how this will play out. I do feel like it was a little cliché having the policeman find Jesse and Scarlett kissing in his truck, with their tops off. It did have a feel of every other teenage movie or book, but seriously, leave Scarlett to have one tiny piece of happiness that is her own!
Holy horse apples, it isn’t Scarlett who has a vote on the tribunal for Jesse’s land. It is her arsehole father! The same abusive man who got Jesse locked up for ‘kidnapping’ Scarlett, the same man who refuses Scarlett to have a life outside of what he can control. My hopes for Jesse to get his dreams are fading. I can only hope for some form of miracle turnaround. But I don’t like the chances.
Glory is such an underrated character. She is the glue that is holding the town together. She knows everyone’s secrets, she knows everyone’s truths, but all she wants it for justice and happiness to prevail. She is honest, clever, witty and smart. She is mystic, untamable and just as wanting of love and acceptance as Scarlett is. I wish we had more time with Glory, or even better yet, a whole book about her, growing up and finding herself. That is something I’d be into!
Sooo Jesse definitely isn’t going to be keeping his land, unless he wants to break Scarlett’s heart, there is no way for him to stay on it. But maybe change is what he needs. A push in a new direction?
It is so close to being the end of this book and it is so unlike so many other books I’ve read lately. Even though ends are starting to tie up, they are also messy and sewn up with a thread that catches and leaves gaping holes in the fabric. It isn’t one of those stories that everything is neat and tidy, and I really like that about it. The whole story has been intense and messy, so if it had a traditional YA ending, I think it would have felt fake and made the whole story seem less than it really is.
I feel a little thwarted by Jesse leaving now. After all of that trauma and hassle with Scarlett and her family, overcoming their differences and their own traumas, he just decides to up and leave her, when she needs him the most, when they can finally start their own life together. I understand that everyone needs time for personal growth, but this is one that I am not for. Boo Jesse. You suck mate. Ughh and he is saying the ageless excuse, I am doing this for us. Mate, I was in your corner, until now. I can’t put my finger on what exactly is irking me the most about this, can I call it a plot twist? It just feels wrong, Jesse is explaining it so well, but it feels wrong on so many levels. I just can’t work it out in my head. Yes I get he needs to leave, to see what life is like away from the land, but I assumed he would just move to Kentucky with Scarlett and maybe take some classes at the college while he was there? Not leave.
Okay so of course my anger was pre-mature apparently. Jesse somehow got into the University of Ketucky fo the agriculture programme… So now it is all happily ever after for Jesse and Scarlett.. I get Jesse had to go away to work on a farm and to learn how to do things with the councils and stuff, but it was a rather dramatic side-step. I feel like it was unnecessary. He could have gotten some help from somewhere else? I feel like their magical fairy tale ending is slightly tainted now. Him leaving just put a sour taste in my mouth?
I did love this book though. It is different to so many other YA titles out there at the moment. Their story is deep, traumatic and filled with the desire to be wanted, accepted and loved. I forgot how easy McGarry’s writing style is to read, the scenes are free-flowing, they stream from one moment into the next, there is no choppy change-overs. The characters are all complementary and add something to the book. There are no characters that are there for useless filling, they all give something to the story. I think my favourite element to this book is the inclusion of the connection to the land that Jesse has. The way that he has a deep, natural connection, to know what is wrong with it and how to fix it. The way he is in tune with the earth.
I knew nothing about this book, going in. Katie McGarry is an auto-buy author for me, so I just knew I had to read it. I do wish I had read the synopsis before reading, I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the book, but it is a fantastic read. As always McGarry has created characters that feel as though you have known them, your whole life. They are deep, multi-dimensional and feel real. They make you feel for them, want the best for them. Even if you can see that their motives may not be pure.
I ended up devouring this book in one day, in one sitting. It takes over and doesn’t let you go until you have read all that there is to read!
Definitely pop a comment below if you have read this book! Let’s chat!
Thanks for reading!