One of my favourite books of 2012 was the beautifully written Ten Tiny Breaths, a novel whose story changed me and made me re-examine my own life. Its beautiful lesson of forgiveness and letting go of the emotional shackles of anger touched me so deeply that I have been anxiously awaiting its sequel ever since. While Ten Tiny Breaths was Kacey’s story, in this book we finally get to properly meet Livie, the younger sister, who captured our hearts already with her kindness and strength. This is a book that will own you from the very first page, make you fall in love with every single character in this story and show you once more what an exceptional writer Ms Tucker truly is.
The story resumes three years after the events of the previous book. Livie is now eighteen and on her way to an Ivy League college. This is the first time she is going to live alone, without her sister, and while scared and apprehensive of the novelty of this, Livie has always known what her professional future would bring as she made those plans with her late father when she was still a child, and she is now willing to do anything to make her father’s dreams for her come true. But Livie’s constant drive for perfection disguises a deeply rooted ignorance of her own wishes and desires – she’s followed someone else’s dreams for so long, she never actually questioned them or asked herself what her heart really wanted out of life.
“You seem to be governed by a life plan. It’s ingrained in your daily routines; it’s almost like a religion for you. It has dictated the choices you have made so far and those you plan to make in the future. You don’t question it, you don’t test it. You just do it.”
At her sister’s insistence, she agrees to speak to Kacey’s old PTSD therapist and commence a very unorthodox therapy plan aimed at helping Livie find herself. For so long, she has been the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, the perfect student. Having set such high expectations for herself, she never considered derailing from them. With everything now under question, Livie is forced to re-examine her future, her life plans and entertain the possibility that everything she has always believed she wanted out of life could just be a misguided attempt at holding onto her past.
“So I hear you’re a ticking time bomb.”
When Livie moves to Princeton, she is quickly thrown into a world of new social experiences. During one of these outings, she meets a boy, a boy that makes her entire body tingle, a boy with a notorious reputation as a womaniser, a boy that makes her lose all inhibitions and control, a boy that steals her first kiss. Ashton is not someone Livie would ever normally consider dating but as much as she tries to avoid him from that first encounter, every time they meet they simply gravitate towards each other. But Ashton is also a boy with his own dark secrets and as much as he cannot help himself around Livie, he knows he cannot give her what she needs and deserves. Shackled by his own past, Ashton appears to have the perfect life, even though his life has been one constant nightmare. For the first time ever, he has met a girl who has made him want to break away from those painful binds and be true to himself, but recognising freedom and embracing it are two very different things.
“… you’re not a one-night girl, Irish… You’re my forever girl.”
When Ashton’s best friend, Connor, falls for Livie, our heroine finds herself torn between what her mind tells her she should want and what her heart craves. And by learning to listen to her heart, Livie finally finds herself on a path to self-discovery.
A beautifully executed love triangle, heart-warming and poignant, this is a story that will stay with you. The writing style is simply flawless, with equal injections of deep genuine emotions and light-hearted humour. While the first book was a lot darker, the focus being on the characters’ troubled pasts and the secrets connecting them, Livie’s story is a tale of looking forward into the future and breaking away from the past. Ms Tucker has given us another delightful heroine to adore and become invested in, not to mention an atypical hero, an anti-hero of sorts, to make our hearts race and make us cheer for him from the get-go. These are not perfect individuals – they are young, they make mistakes, but they also learn from their mistakes. There’s a learning curve in everything they do.
I loved this story from beginning to end, could not put it down for longer than a meal break and did not want it to end. I had some very minor objections regarding not giving enough importance to the risks of unprotected sex and under-age alcohol consumption, especially given the potential readership, but that is just the perfectionist in me because when you read a book this perfect, you want every aspect of it to be just that.
This was one reading delight that I plan to revisit very very soon.
“I know you don’t believe me but you don’t have to be perfect. No one’s perfect.”
“I’m not, I’m trying to be … remarkable.”