The Place Between Breaths by An Na
From master storyteller and Printz Award–winning author An Na comes a dark, intensely moving story of a girl desperately determined to find a cure for the illness that swept her mother away, and could possibly destroy her own life as well.
Sixteen-year-old Grace is in a race against time—and in a race for her life—even if she doesn’t realize it yet…
She is smart, responsible, and contending with more than what most teens ever should. Her mother struggled with schizophrenia for years until, one day, she simply disappeared—fleeing in fear that she was going to hurt those she cared about most. Ever since, Grace’s father has worked as a recruiter at one of the leading labs dedicated to studying the disease, trying to lure the world’s top scientists to the faculty to find a cure, hoping against hope it can happen in time to help his wife if she is ever found. But this makes him distant. Consumed.
Grace, in turn, does her part, interning at the lab in the gene sequencing department daring to believe that one day they might make a breakthrough…and one day they do. Grace stumbles upon a string of code that could be the key. But something inside of Grace has started to unravel. Could her discovery just be a cruel side effect of the disease that might be taking hold of her? And can she even tell the difference?
Unflinchingly brave, An Na has created a mesmerizing story with twists and turns that reveal jaw-dropping insights into the mind of someone struggling with schizophrenia.
This little book packs a punch. However, there’s a few things to consider before you read it. It is a book about mental health and schizophrenia. It is not a fluffy cuddly book. This one bites, and confuses.
The second thing is that the author has South Korean origins. Meaning that the Eastern (because “not Western sounds meh”) influences are heavy in the writing style of the book. Think Murakami, Yoshimoto, etc, who have a particular style of wiriting that isn’t what most Western authors do.
And why do I say both things before I even review the book? Because if you’re expecting a perfectly “coherent” fluffy book, this book is not it and it definitely isn’t a Western view of the world even if it is set in the US.
The author writes this book in seasons, in cycles. The book does its best to show you how schizophrenia entangles you and all the “ripples” it has. Your main character is Grace King who believes in logic and is fighting against her genes, while trying to work and help find a cure or something for schizophrenia. The story shifts between “season” chapters, that show slightly different things but they do make a cohesive whole. (I don’t want to spoil the book too much).
There are a lot of twists and intriguing bits in the story where at first you aren’t sure but as the story progresses you begin to realise how much Grace is fighting and what “enemy” she’s fighting.
In my opinion it was a very clever book with the way it sets thing and how it leaves you guessing. You need to be in the right midnset for it though, and it is worth (only after reading it) to go check Goodreads reviews, the author explains her purpose in writing it the way she did and a little better what is and isn’t in a reply to a reviewer.