One Breath Away – Heather Gudenkauf

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I’m struggling to write this review because Heather is one of my favourite authors and I have loved all her books…….up to now.

This book had so much potential to be great. A lone gunman has entered a school in the fictional town of Broken Branch and the book covers a 24 hour period, telling what happened from different points of view. Unfortunately, it wasn’t great and, in my opinion, that was due to a few different points.

Firstly, there are way too many “main” characters in this novel. The first one we meet is Holly, a burns victim and mother to two of the children being held in the school. I didn’t see one reason why Holly was even included in the book as she brings nothing to the story and she could have easily been cut out of the book completely. Yes, she’s Augie and PJs mother which, in turn brought Will in as her father (and the kids’ grandfather) but surely this relationship could have been explained in a couple of paragraphs rather than create another character (who isn’t even in Broken Branch with her kids when this all kicks off; she’s in a hospital hundreds of miles away!)

Secondly, this is an incident which is occurring in a school yet, apart from Augie and PJ, the school children are hardly even mentioned which, to me, is just very strange. Surely a book set in a school, with children being held at gunpoint, would dwell on the kids and their reactions a little more? It does follow Mrs Oliver, a 3rd(?) grade teacher who is trapped in with the gunman, but even her reactions aren’t what I imagine would be the reactions of someone who’s life is endangered and who has responsibility over a class full of kids. I just ended up feeling sorry for her and thinking she should have retired before now anyway.

Thirdly, I just thought that too much dialogue was spent on petty things. It meant that the story kept being taken away from the actual incident so we were finding out lots of back history (a lot of which was completely irrelevant to the actual story being told) and it just began to drag on. And on. And on. A lot of the story followed Meg, a police officer who is involved, and I really began to despise her. She didn’t follow procedure a lot of the time (although it is mentioned early on in the book that, after the Columbine shootings, a correct procedure was drawn up for all emergency services to adhere to in the case of an intruder at a school) and I just began to dislike her more and more as the book went on.

I usually give a book the benefit of the doubt until I’ve finished it because I’ve been unsure about books before and then, in the final few chapters, it’s all brought together and there’s a great ending which makes up for that first feeling of not knowing whether I liked it or not. Unfortunately, by the time I finished this, I couldn’t wait to close it up and move onto my next read. I’m still struggling with writing this because I LOVED Heather’s other books. She’s featured heavily on my Bookstagram and Twitter accounts and I’ve recommended her books to so many people but I just didn’t “get” this book at all. I can see that most people have rated 4 and 5 stars on Goodreads so I just wanted to put my opinion across as I’m sure there must be more people than me in this world who didn’t like it?!

I’m afraid that, unlike the other books by this author which I did rate highly, this one gets a measly one star

 

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