Breathe is a disturbing yet compelling tale of a young girl's descent into obsession. Giving a hint of the bad events to come, Charlene tells the story as she reflects on her life from the confines of a prison cell. She first gives the reader a snapshot of her life as a young child when she was basically happy but her parents were distant and fought terribly. Charlene contents herself with being alone, remaining slightly detached from the world around her, an attitude that makes her unpopular at school. She enjoys an intense friendship with Vanessa, who moves away after a few years, leaving Charlene crushed. The typical worries of girls waiting for puberty compound her feelings that she is an outsider as she spirals into despair.
Then Sarah arrives. Sarah can instantly captivate any audience, and Charlene watches from a distance. Then, amazingly, at one of Charlene's lowest points, they becomes best friends. The two girls are inseparable, but it seems fated not to last. And so begins a four-year relationship that will crush Charlene's self-esteem, even her very soul, leaving her desperate for a way to break free of Sarah's allure.
Breathe is the debut novel of a seventeen-year-old French student. Brasme's age shows only in her familiarity with teenage girls, the thoughts that plague them, and the things they will do to hurt each other. She creates an intriguing psychological study within the plot of the novel as the reader experiences Charlene's increasing madness and self-destructive behavior.
Breathe is not always pleasant to read. It can be painful to sit by as Charlene endures both petty snubs and outright abuse at Sarah's hands. It can also be frustrating to watch Charlene falter again and again. In the end, the reader is left to ponder numerous questions about Charlene's actions, most of them as unsettling as they are intriguing.