Book Review: The Deepest Breath
The Deepest Breath
Written by Meg Grehan
Published by Little Island Books
Publication date: 9th May 2019
Summary (from Goodreads):
Stevie is eleven and loves reading and sea-creatures. She lives with her mum, and she’s been best friends with Andrew since forever. Stevie’s mum teases her that someday they’ll get married, but Stevie knows that won’t ever happen. There’s a girl at school that she likes more. A lot more. Actually, she’s a bit confused about how much she likes her. It’s nothing like the way she likes Andrew. It makes her fizz inside. That’s a new feeling, one she doesn’t understand. Stevie needs to find out if girls can like girls – love them, even – but it’s hard to get any information, and she’s too shy to ask out loud about it. But maybe she can find an answer in a book. With the help of a librarian, Stevie finds stories of girls loving girls, and builds up her courage to share the truth with her mum. Written in accessible verse `chapters’ and in a warm and reassuring style, The Deepest Breath will be of special relevance to young girls who are starting to realise that they are attracted to other girls, but it is also a story for any young reader with an open mind who wants to understand how people’s emotions affect their lives.
I know a lot of things
I know that
Because I can look at my notebook
And see pages and pages of things I know
And because people say it
Sometimes in a good way
But there are so many things
That I don’t know
There are so many things to know
And the list gets bigger every single day
New plants are found
New animals are discovered
It all feels
First impressions: I spotted this initially on Twitter, being mentioned by several authors who I respect so I had to look it up. When I saw it out in the wild (Well, a bookshop and we all know how dangerous those are), I had to get a copy. I started reading without knowing anything about it other than it is about a young girl trying to figure out why she feels a certain way about one of her friends…I was now prepared to be so completely blown away by this book!
All I can say is wow, this book, wow!
I practically inhaled it, devouring it in one sitting, during which I laughed, cried and found myself poised on the edge of my chair.
It is written in verse, which takes you straight to the heart of the matter and gives you an amazing insight into our main character’s heart and head. I have read a number of exceptionally emotional books recently written in verse (E.g House Without Walls) and I love everything Sarah Crossan has written so I should have realised that I would love this too.
Stevie is such a brilliant character, immediately recognizable and sympathetic. The relationship between her and her mum is just beautiful and the fact that Stevie goes to the library for answers makes me love her even more!
The author sums things up the importance of this book better than I ever could, in this article from The University Times Ireland: “I would love for it to play a part, however small, in starting a conversation about the importance of queer representation in kids’ books and media. I’d love to think that it could give comfort to kids who are questioning their identities and maybe help kids understand themselves and each other a little better”.
I have been recommending this book widely and cannot wait for more people to read it!
I feel lost
In a way I’ve never felt lost before
I know exactly where I am
And how I got here
And how to get home
But here I am
In a corner
Lost lost lost
Here I am
In a corner
Surroundd by all the information
All the answers I could ever want
Lost lost lost
What I liked: The relationship between Stevie and her mother, the representation of Stevie’s anxiety, her innocence and how she seeks answers from the library, the librarian’s reaction to her research request, her mum’s reaction, the free verse…I could go on. Needless to say, I loved it!
Even better if: It would have been really nice if Stevie could have found more media that represented her, after she found out what she as looking for. This would also help to signpost some of that media for any younger readers who identify with Stevie and may want to follow the same research journey.
How you could use it in your classroom: This could be used as a class reader, with extracts to explore how Stevie puts her feelings into words. It would also serve as fantastic springboard for discussions surrounding sexuality and relationships, etc. Recommend this one to your pupils!
What did other people think?
‘Incredibly artful, incredibly tender’ – Deirdre Sullivan, author of Tangleweed and Brine
‘Gorgeously written, emotionally complex and endlessly kind’ – Moïra Fowley-Doyle, author of Spellbook of the Lost and Found and All the Bad Apples
‘This is a heartwarming, emotional look at a very young girl realising she likes girls and trying to tell her mum, the person she trusts most in the world. It made me cry and feel the biggest love for the human race. Meg’s writing is so beautiful and flows like water.‘
– Lauren James, author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
‘On the surface a quiet, gentle tale … But it is powerful in its simplicity: “I want to touch her hair,” Stevie blurts out, then tries to figure out what her mum’s raised eyebrows mean; later she goes to the library to find books that will explain things to her, but can find “nothing / About a princess and a princess / Or a queen and a queen / Nothing at all”. It’s a fierce reminder of the need for books that show readers of all kinds of love, as well as being this kind of book itself, especially for younger teens and pre-teens.’ – The Irish Times
‘A seamless narrative. Grehan’s verse flows like water, and her scenes – some tense, some thoughtful, and each slipping easily into the next – patiently follow the rises and falls of a young girl’s emotional life.’ – Gay Community News
‘As a “coming-out” story, it is so powerful and revealing, yet so nuanced … The characterisation is absolute perfection, with elegant detail given in just a few words … This book is gently amazing and utterly compassionate. Just beautiful. Please, please read this book!’ – Mary Esther Judy, bookseller and reviewer
‘The Deepest Breath is exceptionally unique and progressive in the current Irish literary scene. Above all, the book breaks new ground in children and young adult literature, capturing as it does the first steps towards coming out for a child … The skill and the kindness with which Grehan addresses challenging issues in this book is astounding. This is an incredibly gentle and tender novel, yet the passion that lights it from within is ferocious.’ – The University Times
‘A stunning and beautifully-written story that really captured my heart. Grehan writes in a way that is remarkably tender and honest.’ – Alix Long
‘A beautiful and charming novel in verse about growing up, coming of age and coming out. Gentle, tender and moving… I loved this book.’ – Lisa Corr, Dubray Books
‘I was absolutely blown away by it; wished it was around when I was 11 or 12. Without wishing to spoil anything, I’m a children’s librarian, too, so it was a double win for me.’ – Elaine Peebles, librarian
‘What beautiful magic inside these pages … a gorgeous story.’ – Jacq Murphy
Thanks for reading!