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Hold Me Like a Breath: Once Upon a Crime Family Hardcover – May 19, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Seventeen-year-old Penny Landlow was born into the "family business"; her dad oversees a vast empire of illegal organ donation. Patients pay heartily for this life-saving service. Penny lives on a lavish estate that sports top-notch security and hired staff. She has limited interaction with the outside world, which is compounded by her disease; Penny suffers from a rare condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Her body destroys its own platelets for no known reason, and the only treatment is healthy blood infusions every few weeks. Her life revolves around her blood tests and infusions. Penny's greatest desire is to go away to college and live like a normal teen, but her doting parents will never allow this. Carter, her older brother, is home from college, along with his trusted bodyguard, Garrett Ward. Garrett's dad is head of security for the business and his three brothers are employees as well. It's assumed that the Ward family will take over the organ business once Penny's father retires. When the Wards are not named as heirs to her father's empire, the action boils over. Her brother, mother, and father are brutally murdered, and Penny is forced into a heart-pounding, adrenaline-fueled race to discover the true murderers and survive the treacherous New York landscape on her own. Penny comes to recognize her limitations and have faith in her ability to make decisions, learning from her mistakes. The plot is contrived in spots, such as when Penny just happens to run into and fall in love with the son of one of the rival organ empires. Loaded with twists and suspense, this is the first in a series, and teens will anxiously await the next book. VERDICT A crime narrative that satisfies a craving for suspenseful romance, entertaining adventure, and edge-of-your-seat survival drama.—Julie Shatterly, W. A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC
“Ambitious and original, Hold Me Like a Breath captured my attention before I even turned the first page. It's a thriller in every sense of the word, and I can't wait to see what Schmidt has up her sleeve next.” ―Michelle Hodkin, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the Mara Dyer trilogy
“The tightly coiled suspense and superb romance had me holding my breath!” ―Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of DON'T LOOK BACK and the Lux series
“This book swept me off my feet! Deadly family secrets, tense situations, surprising truths, and captivating romance kept me in suspense from 'Once upon a time' to 'ever after'. Hold Me Like a Breath is a gripping modern thriller for readers who still love fairy tales and people who think they've outgrown them. This is an offer you can't refuse!” ―E. C. Myers, author of THE SILENCE OF SIX and FAIR COIN
“This is a sometimes violent, sometimes teen-angsty, sometimes sigh-worthy, and pretty dang awesome modern fairy tale. . . Add this to your must-read pile!” ―USA Today's HAPPILY EVER AFTER Blog
“Heartfelt and haunting. Penny is a heroine to root for, a princess who creates her own ever-after.” ―Jessica Spotswood, author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles
“Schmidt offers a modern-day retelling of the 'The Princess and the Pea' that attempts to cast the princess in a more proactive, less victimized role than is traditional. Penelope does manage to break free of her delicate-flower mode. . . . The romance at the heart of the book is a sweet one. . . . A decent girl-power twist on an old fairy tale for thriller lovers.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“[A] fairy-tale romance with gangster set dressing . . . . [The] swoonworthy story will appeal to romantic-suspense fans.” ―Booklist
“Swoonworthy.” ―Booklist Online
“Action, mystery, and perhaps some romance combine in this thriller reminiscent of Gabrielle Zevin's Because It Is My Blood and The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.” ―VOYA
“Loaded with twists and suspense, this is the first in a series, and teens will anxiously await the next book.” ―School Library Journal
“With its unusual premise and memorable combination of gangsters, deadly secrets, and subtle fairy-tale allusions, this novel offers an adventure with broad appeal. . . This first in a new crime-family series will also thrill romance-loving adventure readers and leave them holding their breath for more.” ―BCCB
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Top customer reviews
It was AMAZING. I devoured it yesterday in one sitting.
Hold Me is inspired by The Princess and the Pea, emphasis on how badass the princess is. The plot lines revolve around one of three crime families, who deal in the organ trading business. While it's not without the effects of being in the crime business, it is also not dark. At heart, there is romance.
Hold Me stars Penelope, who has a disease that causes her platelets to be eaten up by her body. This is what causes her bruising - which is where the light Princess and the Pea retelling comes in.
I'm fascinated by the crime families and how the daughters rise to power in the absence of their fathers and brothers.
Schmidt's first two novels are contemporarys, and there is a lot of the contemporary vibe in Hold Me Like a Breath. This is a story about a girl who has been ultimately sheltered, both because of her illness and because of the dangerous nature of the family business, who learns to stand on her own two feet. It's a story of a girl who learns that her closest relationships aren't what she thought. It's a story of a girl falling in love for the first time.
It's also the story of a girl whose family is violently ripped from her, and who has reason to believe that she has reason to fear for her life. It's about disguises, action and intrigue, secret meetings in public places, and being very careful about who can be trusted. It's a story of the most unlikely hero saving the day.
This book could have easily been riddled with content that might make some question whether it's appropriate for younger teens. It isn't, though- the story doesn't need graphic description or excessive foul language. I appreciate that Schmidt resists the temptation to go for the shock factor, and focuses on telling a great tale. I'm certainly looking forward to her next.
I did love the organ-transplant element of the novel. It's interesting how the whole business is illegal, but the Family sees themselves as doing something morally right by providing transplants for people the government doesn't deem 'worthy' because of disabilities, etc. But of course, only people with money have access to this, considering how obscenely rich Penny's family is as a result of this business. Different members of the Family have different opinions on the proposed laws that would legalize selling one's organs and how that would affect the Family's business, which was especially interesting within the context of other illegal businesses that are being legalized... It's a complex issue, and Hold Me Like a Breath treats it as such making this a very thought-provoking element of the story. The whole thing didn't even read like contemporary at times; with these made-up laws and a world I know nothing about, Hold Me Like a Breath felt kind of like a sci-fi novel, and I really loved its fascinatingly unique worldbuilding.
But even though I loved this setup, the rest of the story didn't really work for me. I had some issues with our main character Penny. I loved reading about the details of her autoimmune disorder and how that affects her day-to-day life, but that's about the only unique thing about this character. Penny is ridiculously naive, and I understand that that makes sense, considering her sheltered upbringing, but she also acts like a whiny, spoiled brat for most of the novel. I usually hate when people base their opinion on a book on whether or not they liked the main character, but Penny was just so annoying and frustrating to read about that I could not get myself to care about the outcome of her story. She does undergo a transformation over the course of the novel and learns to fight for herself, but I was just too annoyed at that point to really notice. She still acts pretty naive, trusting and helpless even when she's living by herself, and her failure to do anything other than wait around for someone to save her for 90% of the novel frustrated me to no end.
There's two elements to this story: the thriller side, meaning Penny trying to hide and then protect herself and others from the mysterious bad guys; and the emotional side of Penny processing the tragedy that struck her Family. The thriller element in the beginning is pretty weak, considering that nothing really happens for the first three-quarters of the novel; Penny doesn't do anything, she just sits around waiting for something to happen. And at the end, when we do get more action, it just got kind of unrealistic for me - there are so many elements to this thriller that don't make sense. I can't really go into this without spoiling this, but I'll just say that none of the characters really had any motivations that would justify their actions, and there's some serious plotholes in how Penny got to where she is now. As for the emotional side, the writing and the characters just weren't strong enough to make me feel anything.
And then there's the romance, which, of course, had to include a love triangle and some insta-love. At first I liked Garrett, the childhood friend Penny has been in love with forever, but I didn't get too strong of a connection between him and Penny, and once Char shows up, Penny just kind of forgets about him. The relationship with Char was too insta-love-y for me - they're both suddenly obsessed with each other, and Penny isn't creeped out when Char follows her and stakes out outside the apartment where she's hiding. Again, I didn't feel a real connection; for that whole part of the novel, nothing much really happens. When Penny has to choose between Garrett and Char, the resolution is made way too easy, and she doesn't even consider the other side for reasons that didn't make sense to me.
Hold Me Like a Breath was worth the read only because of the original ideas of the organ-transplant black market and the autoimmune disorder; this was an interesting world to gain insights to. But the execution left much to be desired: with a frustrating main character, a predictable thriller storyline with significant plotholes, a weak emotional element and a predictable romance, none of it really worked for me. I might pick up another book by Tiffany Schmidt because I did enjoy her debut, Send Me a Sign, but I'm not going to be continuing with this series.