Review: The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath by Charity Tahmaseb

The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath

Secrets--like war--have their own casualties

MacKenna's mother died when she was a baby, a casualty of the first Gulf War. Now seventeen, MacKenna has spent her life navigating the minefield of her dad's moods, certain of one thing: she is destined to follow in her mother's combat boots. But when she pursues an ROTC scholarship, she finds herself at war before even enlisting.

Her father forbids her from joining the military, inexplicable considering he'd raised her to be a "warrior princess." MacKenna turns to her grandmother--who arms her with an ammo crate containing her mother's personal effects from the war. Hidden in the crate's false bottom is a journal, one her mom stashed there hours before her death.
While MacKenna untangles the secrets of her parents' tragic love story, her own life unravels. Dad's behavior becomes erratic, her best friend grows distant and even hostile, and a boy from her past returns--with a life-threatening secret of his own.

If ever a girl needed her mother, it's now.

The pen might be mightier than the sword, but are a mother's words strong enough to slice through years of hidden pain? Can those words reach through the battlefields of the past to change MacKenna's future?

(cover image and summary lifted from Goodreads)
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Collins Mark Books
Publication date: November 26, 2014
Source/Format: I received an e-copy of this book from the author as part of the 2015 YA Spring Fling. This in no way affects my views.
Purchase links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts:
MacKennna Meyers is a seventeen-year old girl who is part of the swim team in Black Earth High . She was raised by her war veteran father who is still deeply affected by her mother’s death. Her reclusive father did not want to talk anything about her mother making MacKenna long for her even more. MacKenna secretly applied for an ROTC scholarship in her desperate attempt to somehow have a connection with her mother.

Meanwhile in school, her relationship with her bestfriend Nissa is falling apart for some strange reason. And Landon, a boy who left five years ago without any explanation, is back in town and wants to continue what they had from the past.

This book tells a wonderfully woven story of how having secrets destroy relationships. The tagline on the book cover said it aptly, “Secrets , like war, had their own casualties.”

It's really a simple story but the simplicity is mainly the reason why I related to it and enjoyed it thoroughly. The book is told in MacKenna’s point of view and her words and thoughts feel real to me. I can understand when sometimes she thinks that she needs to fly under the radar and be in stealth girl mode. Her longing for her mother and her confusion about her father not talking about it grips me. When MacKenna is being swept off her feet by Landon, I am also beside myself in swooning. Her transformation from the girl who thought at the start of the novel that, “Eveyone had secrets.” into “But the time for secrets are over.” in the end is so well-written.

One of my favorite parts of the book is how MacKenna randomly remembers her father’s opinion on things. Examples of these are:

"Dad on his old clothes: About time they were put to good use."
"Dad on staying late: Mission first, princess."
"Dad on free stuff: Nothing’s ever free, princess. Remember that."

It just shows how MacKenna thinks highly of what her dad might think of her actions. I like how MacKenna's father is not an absentee parent in MacKenna's life despite his depression/trauma.

Another nice touch in the book are the free verse poems on a journal written by MacKenna’s mother. It’s a brilliant way of giving us a glimpse of how MacKenna’s mother was.

I enjoyed reading this book and I highly recommend it to readers of the young adult genre.
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