Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Out of Breath by Blair Richmond

Out of Breath
by Blair Richmond
Release Date: October 11, 2011
2011 Ashland Creek Press
Softcover Edition; 274 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-9796475-7-4
Genre:  Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Nineteen-year-old Kat Jones has been a competitive runner since she was a young girl, but after her mother's death, the path her life was supposed to take begins to crumble around her -- until one day, she finds herself on the run in a literal sense, this time in a race for her very life!

Kat's journey takes her to the Pacific Northwest town of Lithia, the place of her last good memories, of the days when her mother was still alive. But soon after her arrival, strange things begin to happen in Lithia -- and when one of her new friends disappears under mysterious circumstances, Kat begins to realize that Lithia's inhabitants are not all of this world. Worst of all, she is falling in love with one of these otherworldly locals, and the friend who hopes to save her has secrets of his own.

As Kat tries to rebuild her life, she is also training for a race that will turn out to be her biggest challenge yet, as she must outrun not only the demons of her past but the demons of the here and now, who threaten her very existence and that of the entire town.

My Thoughts
Out of Breath is the first novel in a planned trilogy, and features a host of intriguing characters who are mysterious, quirky, and interesting.  As a long-time runner myself, I found myself fascinated by the added running culture that was intertwined throughout the novel and how it was woven so seamlessly into the plot and into the characters' lives.  I understand that 'runner's high' and know how it feels to be connected to everything around you as you run.  Having such a wonderful environment in which to run would be amazing, as the runners and characters often ran on secluded trails and in secluded, peaceful areas.  It also gave the author the perfect setting in which to contrast the beauty with the horror that was simmering behind the beautiful town of Lithia.

Katherine, or Kat, is running away from events that we know little about throughout the novel, and eventually ends up in her birthtown, Lithia, unknowingly looking for answers to her mother's death all those years ago.  What she finds is a perfect place, with friendly, outgoing people who always seem to know what she is doing and with whom, and she finds herself happy for the first time in a long time.  Before long, she is mesmerized by two handsome men, Roman and Alex, and the ensuing byplay between the three of them is quite interesting as naturally the two men dislike each other immensely.  As the secrets are revealed, and the danger becomes more real, Kat realizes that Lithia is not such a wonderful place and that many things have been covered up.  I enjoyed Kat's character quite a bit and often identified with her, even though I still have no clue why she is running away.  She is spunky and holds true to her beliefs, and walks away from those who try to change her.  The whole vegan thread running through the novel definitely brings this aspect of Kat's personality to light as she defends her diet choice to others, but I was surprised at how extensive the vegan thread actually ran.  There are many issues that are raised in this novel (health, exercise, diet, choices, safety while running) that can be discussed with your adolescent or teen, and I like the fact that Kat was fit and healthy. 

One of the things I did not really buy into however, is the romance aspect of the novel.  While I enjoyed the byplay between Roman and Alex and how they fought over her, I didn't understand why they were so interested and protective of her all of the time.  It seemed like they just met, and then all of a sudden, they were always there, wanting to protect her, and it just didn't seem that believable to me.   Don't get me wrong as I adored Alex, and he is one of my favourite characters, but I didn't buy into the love relationship as it didn't seem real or authentic to me.  Kat can certainly take care of herself, and we understand that she learned many of these skills by being on the road for so long, and being homeless, but so little information got frustrating and I wanted to know more about her in order to keep liking her. 
 
Ms. Richmond's writing style is definitely clear with some emotionally wrought scenes, yet not so overwhelming that younger readers for whom the novel is written would not understand the implied meanings. While I enjoyed learning about the vegan lifestyle and liked the fact that Kat stood up for her beliefs, I did feel at times like I was being lectured to and that I should be feeling guilty because I like to eat meat.  I don't know if this was intentional or not, but it is not a feeling that I enjoyed and I don't want it to turn me off the novel, or future novels, as it is not the reason why I am reading them. Even Stacy and David, Kat's helpers and 'saviours' in Lithia, often had arguments over their vegan diet, as Stacy often broke the diet and cheated.   On the other hand, the healing effects of running were also in force in this novel and this didn't bother me at all, so maybe I was just touchy? 

Verdict
Out of Breath was an enjoyable novel, and as it is also meant to cater to the 12+ age group, quite easy to read.  I found the interplay between the three main characters interesting, although I did find the character development in the secondary characters to be not quite up to par with the main characters, which is too bad as I would love to know more about Doug and David. I also felt that something was missing at times, although I couldn't really put my finger on it, just this sense that the tone changed.  Having an eco-friendly twist to the vampire tale was different, but I think a fine line needs to be drawn for the veganism discussions before the novels take on a lecturing tone and take away from the feel of the novel itself.  I did however, enjoy the descriptions of the mountains and the nature and could picture it quite clearly in my mind.  I am looking forward to reading the next book in this trilogy as the ending in Out of Breath certainly left a lot of questions unanswered and I would like to find out what happens next.  For those looking for a quick, entertaining vampire novel, then take a look at Out of Breath.

About the Author:
Blair Richmond is currently working the The Ghost Runner, the second novel the Lithia Trilogy. 

Ashland Creek Press is hosting an official Out of Breath Halloween virtual book launch party on Monday, October 31st, with author Q&A, book giveaways, and to share some Halloween recipes.  Don't forget to mark this date on your calendar!!!

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