Summary (being highly plot-driven, I felt it necessary to provide):
The Swarm is unrecognizable, untraceable, and unpredictable—random attacks on the streets of Chicago by a mob of crazed teens that leaves death in its wake. It’s been two years since the last attack, but Lia Finch has found clues that reveal the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim.
Lia is the only one still pursuing her father’s killers, two years after attorney Steven Finch’s murder by the Swarm. Devastated and desperate for answers, Lia will do anything to uncover the reasons behind his death and to stop someone else from being struck down. But due to debilitating asthma and PTSD that leaves her with a tenuous hold on reality, Lia is the last person to mount a crusade on her own.
After a close encounter with the Swarm puts Lia on their radar, she teams up with a teen hacker, a reporter, and a mysterious stranger who knows firsthand how the mob works. Together, they work to uncover the master puppeteer behind the group. Though if Lia and her network don’t stop the person pulling the strings—and fast—Lia may end up the next target.
I want to make three essential points very clear about Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel very clear.
- It is plot driven. No ifs, ends or buts.
- Disclaimer- I do not have asthma- so my following statement is after speaking to someone who does: The main character, Lia Finch’s, asthma is real and it is on the severe end of the spectrum. If reading this in detail, amazingly written detail, is going to trigger claustrophobia or your own asthma? Don’t.
- Every Stolen Breath (in my opinion) falls on the younger side of the YA spectrum. And like Spin the Dawn, this did not take away from my love of the book at all. It is just something, I always like to mention. If you want a comparison- I would compare it to Spin the Dawn, in terms of the age comparison (although two different genres). And I was just approved for an ARC of the sequel to Spin the Dawn, so that should squelch any thoughts that being on the young side of the YA spectrum had an impact on my enjoyment of Every Stolen Breath.
If the quote from the featured image sounds familiar, I also utilized it as apart of my First Line Friday, a bit ago. I chose it because it is an open that grabs you immediately. Fitting, really. Once Every Stolen Breath, quite literally, steals your breath? Good luck getting it back.
Gabriel’s debut is meshes thriller, detective and contemporary genres while addressing multiple contemporary themes. By letting the plot drive the story, it never becomes overwhelming or clunky.
Unsolved mysteries from the past, along with those happening in current time have the ability to play out, while experiencing clues and reveals with Lia. Having the chance to connect the past and the present, keeps you hanging on every detail that is dropped throughout the story.
Lia’s character is handled with incredible sensitivity. Gabriel utilization of not just description but change in both sentence, and paragraph structure is applied at just the right times to draw readers into Lia’s desperate fight for air.
Over the summer I spoke of Rory Power’s ability to do the same in my review of Wilder Girls. Both Gabriel and Power demonstrate this effortless ability but in very different ways. Where Power has a Kerouac style of breaking up sentences and repeating words to draw readers into a character’s mental state, Gabriel has shortened sentences and paragraphs to really bring you into the physical state of a severe asthmatic attack.
In certain places that Lia was having severe Asthmatic attacks, I often found my pulse quickening. There was a sensation of fear, as if there wasn’t enough oxygen in the room.
My breath grows rapid… I can’t slow it down. My lungs and burn and pump quickly, in short, constricted bursts. I fall back on the couch. Stretch out. Give them room to take in air until my body is so stiff I can’t move… The pressure around my chest intensifies. It squeezes my ribs, my throat. I gasp for air, but my lungs are wearing down.
Her PTSD is handled in the same fashion, with both sensitivity and stunning detail. Often utilizing both a no-holds bar depth and structure that brings the reality of reliving traumatic events to life.
Something coppery and rancid wafts into the alley.
Blood. My dad’s blood.
I hold my breath. Shake my head. No, it isn’t real.
I shut my eyes. Count backward. Bury the delusions. Push them out of my head.
My dad moans.
The Swarm Cheers.
My eyes wrench open to where the iPad lies on the ground.
Lia’s own physical, and mental struggles against the backdrop of everything she is desperate to accomplish; the mystery of her father’s death. Those behind the Chicago Flash Mobs, and putting an end to it are woven together to create a strong female lead character.
That is, however, the most in depth character development in Every Stolen Breath, outside of the city of Chicago. Yes. Unlike a recent book that utilized Chicago as a setting, Gabriel nails Chicago as not just a setting but as a character. Chicago jumps off the page in not just a well detailed setting but as a character, unto itself.
If you are from Chicago, or have lived there for any amount of time, you will be hard-pressed to find fault in the utilization of the city as an intricate plot point. If you have not visited, you will have no issue creating it in your mind as both landscape and a living, breathing part of the story.
Side characters are prevalent to the plot in terms of the mystery and possible hidden agendas. You have just enough information and are provided enough varied personalities to keep the mystery going. Lia’s inability to decide who to trust throughout the story shifts, keeping both her and the readers on shaky ground. Being plot driven, don’t expect more than what is needed to provide that air of mystery and suspense.
My only nitpick with Every Stolen Breath is one reveal right at the end. Being a spoiler I won’t go into details. However, it definitely does not deter me from highly recommending the book nor my enjoyment of it.
Every Stolen Breath is a stellar debut from Gabriel, meshing multiple genres along with contemporary topics. It provides both high entertainment value and many educational pieces that could be utilized in classrooms, as well.
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