The first in a two-book deal, sold in a four-way auction for high-five-figures, Learning to Breathe is a contemporary, realistic and harrowing debut young adult novel set in the Caribbean and featuring a hugely sympathetic protagonist—reminiscent but not derivative of Precious, it is at once a grave and inspiring tale of sexual trauma and healing, compared by one editor to early Toni Morrison.
Learning to Breathe follows Indy, a self-conscious teenage girl from a poor neighbourhood in the Caribbean. When Indy’s drug addled mother sends her from Mariners Cove to Nassau to live with her aunt, she believes she’s doing the right thing. But there, Indy is repeatedly raped and eventually impregnated by her cousin Gary. As Indy’s classmates, neighbours and family discover her secret, they all too easily assume she’s following in her mother’s footsteps and never stop to ask Indy or themselves how this may have happened. Increasingly scared and alienated, Indy stumbles upon a yoga retreat where she finds work, friends and purpose. Resolved not to give in to society’s low expectations of her, though achingly susceptible to people’s negative projections, Indy’s newfound meditative practice and the community that comes with it teach her the value of self-worth.
Well-paced and written in an authentic Caribbean dialect, which never feels forced or gimmicky, Learning to Breathe is an important YA novel that refrains from talking down to its audience. Our heroine is faced with genuine adversity which she finds the wit and grit to overcome in real and difficult ways while always remaining true to herself.
Janice Lynn Mather, author
Janice Lynn Mather has practiced yoga on beaches and under trees for the past sixteen years, and holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia. She was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2012 and 2013. Her writing has appeared in anthologies Pepperpot: Best New Anthologies from the Caribbean; We Have A Voice and A Sudden And Violent Change, and in journals including Tongues Of The Ocean, Chameleon, and Fugue. She was shortlisted for the HarperCollins Publishers/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction in 2015 for this novel.
- Mather’s telling of Indy’s trauma, trust, guilt and eventual truth is agonizing, devastating and poetic.” - Angela Johnson, award-winning author of The First Part Last
- Mather paints a tragically real picture of the struggles too many girls are forced to endure, conferring a universal quality to Indira’s pain and experience — struggles exacerbated by a society that vilifies women and girls while too often ignoring their abuse... this challenging read confronts injustice and celebrates strength of character and spirit. - Booklist
- Through well-crafted dialogue, fresh characters, and solid pacing, the book’s mature themes are handled carefully and with sensitivity. A powerful, poignant story about refusing to let the past dictate who you are or who you will become. - Kirkus Reviews Link to review
- This is a well-written, thought-provoking book that tackles difficult topics such as unwanted pregnancy, familial relationships, and rape, with nuance. The language and depiction of the practice of yoga is lyrical and beautiful. Readers will agonize with Indira as she struggles to make the best decision for herself and her child... A stirring debut for all YA collections. - School Library Journal, starred review Link to review
- 2018 A Junior Library Guild Selection
Rights Holder: Cooke International
rights sold: North America (Simon & Schuster)
rights available: World
age range: 13 and up
number of pages: 336
publication date: 06/01/2018
Original language of pub: English
Materials Available: complete manuscript