Title: Just Remember to Breathe (Thompson Sisters)
Author: Charles Sheehan-Miles
Publisher: Cincinnatus Press
Released: 12th November 2012
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Charles Sheehan-Miles has once again blown me away - more so this time. Now and then it hits me that I read very few male authors - and yet this one has impressed me twice with his ability to create strong, layered characters and solid relationships, snatching me from my real life bedroom and dunking me into the worlds he creates, worlds where I have to periodically remind myself are not real even if they are contemporary, refusing to let me go until the very last sentence. Even then, I am never truly allowed to leave. If there is one thing you are not able to do upon finishing a Sheehan-Miles books, it's forget his characters.
Alex is at Columbia University, following the path that her parents have set for her. She keeps herself focused on her grades, not really interested in guys and the more social side of things. One guy already broke her heart, and she's trying to forget about him. Dylan is at Columbia University, an unexpected turn of events since he was in Afghanistan and came home severely injured. He's determined to work his hardest and try to forget about the girl who broke his heart. Not to mention the fact that she was out of his league, anyway. The last thing either of them want is to see each other again...and yet they end up at the same university, on the same work study assignment. Unable to do anything about it, they realise they need to come up with a way for them to work together in a manner more civil than hostile, one where they'll at least be able to look at each other without glaring. The solution they come up with is to establish some ground rules. Only trouble is, they keep breaking them...
Like A Song for Julia, this is told in dual POV. Unlike A Song for Julia, I was very happy with the way these were done. I could tell easily who was speaking and when, and I loved reading from both their perspectives. Sheehan-Miles has a truly captivating writing style. Through reading these alternate perspectives, I was made to feel. A lot. There are so many emotions in this book, and I had no control over what was happening to my heart. Authors seem to have this expectation that whatever their books put us through, we'll recover. How do they know that? Maybe we're fine now, but how do they know that one day they won't eventually push us over the edge? For me, not only was it painful having to read parts of this story, but it was also painful to finish it, to realise that my time with Alex and Dylan was up, and that the only way I'd get to spend a little more time with them would be to re-read it. And make no mistake, that's exactly what I will be doing. But this was beautiful and sad and tragic and hopeful and funny and light and serious and I didn't want to let go.
'When he finally got himself standing, he leaned close and said, "I think we need one more rule."
He took a deep breath through his nose, and said, "Yeah. Um, yeah...you need to get different shampoo."
What. The. Hell?
"What are you talking about?" I asked, suddenly very uncomfortable.
"You still smell like strawberries, and it's breaking my heart," he said with a low growl. With that, he turned, slung his bad over his impossible broad shoulder, and began to walk away.'
That last line from Dylan hit me hard when I was reading this. Really hard. Maybe it'll make more sense when you're actually reading it, but what he said there completely broke my own heart. The thing is, Alex and Dylan on their own? Amazing. Both of them are these broken yet strong people, and they struggle to work through an undoubtedly difficult situation. They both have their own insecurities - especially Dylan. Unsurprisingly, his time in Afghanistan was hell, and he's working through that on top of their relationship issues. But as a couple? These two are just...incredible. They really fit together. I loved seeing them try to be friends again and then watching with a smile when they broke their own rules. I loved learning how they met; I thought it was different compared to the start of so many other romances that I've read. I loved how when things suddenly veered off course again, Alex especially remained strong and did what she had to. And I loved that ending. Sweet, unique, breathtaking...perfect. These two belong together, and to see them fighting the pain and the memories that their relationship has brought them thus far is really sad. By not being together, each of them is completely destroying the other.
And then of course, my heart somehow found room to love some of the secondary characters and their own relationships. Out of those, the relationship between Carrie and Sherman definitely trumped. Carrie is an amazing supportive sister, and I'm really looking forward to reading her own story. Sherman is a fantastic friend to Dylan, and he brought in some humour. But it was easy to appreciate Kelly and Joel as well - and Joel isn't even present a lot of the time. My only issues lay with the parents. The blindness of some people will never cease to amaze me.
I kind of feel like this review is not as structured as I'd like it to be, and I'm really sorry about that. Usually I try to keep from rambling and just writing down disconnected thoughts and sentences that maybe don't make sense, but it seems like at the moment, that's the best I can do. Just Remember to Breathe was a truly stunning read and if you're a contemporary fan, Charles Sheehan-Miles is most definitely an author to check out.