Throughout June, GeekMom celebrates Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space (including LGBTQ content from previous years), and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan.
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Trigger warnings: anxiety disorder
The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan is an unusual middle-grade book that is written entirely in verse and will appeal to fans of Matilda and Lumberjanes.
Eleven-year-old Stevie lives with her mother and suffers from anxiety. She is afraid of zombies and clowns, and also many of the strange and scary things that live in the oceans. Stevie wants to know everything (because by doing so hopes she will be able to stop bad things from happening), and she has a large notebook where she writes down all the things she knows. She knows that sea angels are actually called cliones, she knows that octopuses have three hearts, and she knows how to tap out messages in Morse code to her mum at night. Stevie also knows that she likes Chloe, a girl in her class at school who can do magic tricks. What she doesn’t know is what the fizzy feeling she feels when she looks at Chloe is.
Stevie tries to figure this out by herself. She asks questions to her best friend Andrew and to her mum, but she’s not sure how to ask or what she’s really asking in the first place, so the answers she receives are unhelpful. One day, however, Stevie spots an opportunity to visit the library alone, because what better place is there to find an answer than a library?
I will admit that I was initially dubious about The Deepest Breath. I often struggle with long-form poetry and so an entire novel written in verse sounded daunting, but I wanted to give it a try and I needn’t have worried. The writing style gives the story a lyrical, almost musical feel as you read and it also makes the pages fly by—I ended up reading the entire book in under 90 minutes!
Stevie is an interesting character and her relationship with her mum is especially well-written. Although the other characters are not fleshed out very much, such as Stevie’s best friend Andrew and her crush Chloe, this doesn’t really matter because The Deepest Breath is more of a character study on Stevie herself. It’s a look into the anxieties that manifest as kids turn into teenagers and begin to experience all the new and confusing feelings that come with the onset of puberty, anxieties that can be exacerbated when kids don’t see role models that feel the same way they do. These feelings are explored through ocean and water metaphors that help to make them easier to understand for young readers who may be starting to feel that same confusing, fizzing in their chest that Stevie feels when she looks at Chloe.
This is a beautifully written, powerfully emotive book that impressed me far more than I anticipated it would. I would recommend it to everyone but especially tweens and their parents who are just setting foot on the road to puberty, whether or not they feel they might be LGBTQ or not.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.