Category Archives: A Breath Too Late

Review: A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen

Title: A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Fiction
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


For fans of Girl in Pieces, All the Bright Places, and Girl, Interrupted comes a haunting and breathtaking YA contemporary debut novel that packs a powerful message: hope can be found in the darkness.

Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to re-assemble. There’s her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists. And Ellie’s determined to find out why a piece of her was left behind.

Told in epistolary-like style, Rocky Callen’s deeply moving A Breath Too Late sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places. Perfect for fans of the critically-acclaimed SpeakI’ll Give You the Sun, and If I Stay.


A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen is a heartrending young adult novel that is quite poignant.

Seventeen year old Ellie Walker wakes to a very different world and cannot understand what is happening to her.  She eventually discovers she is a ghost following her death by suicide the day before. Her memories of recent days are hazy while her long ago memories are intact. It is only as she begins to understand the previously unseen little things that occurred during her life that Ellie begins to truly regret her decision.

Each chapter is a letter addressed to the person that Ellie is viewing through her now ghostly lens. She goes back to her earliest and happiest memories of life with her mom, Regina. It is not until the sudden appearance of her father, Abel, that their life enters increasingly downward spiral as his amicable veneer is slowly stripped away as his true nature is revealed.

The only bright spot in Ellie’s life is her beautifully uncomplicated friendship with August Matthews.  However, in junior high, Ellie cuts her best friend out of her life and her home life becomes increasingly volatile. Reuniting as seniors in high school, Ellie veers between rejoicing in her plans for the future and the dark grip of depression and despair as her father’s grip tightens on her. With her friendship with August taking an unexpected turn, Ellie descends into a pit of hopelessness that she cannot escape.

As she tries to understand why she took her own life, Ellie sees little glimpses of hope that she missed at various times during her all too short life. Angry at momma for staying with her abusive husband, Ellie feels trapped and desperate to escape. Although she positively adores August, Ellie’s cannot share what is happening at home nor can she trust her own judgment. As she revisits the past, will Ellie discover what lead her to such a desperate act?

A Breath Too Late is an enthralling young adult novel that is impossible to put down. The characters are vibrantly developed and the storyline is thought-provoking.  Rocky Callen deftly incorporates sensitive topics such as suicide, depression and abuse into the storyline in a forthright and realistic manner. Despite the serious subject matter, the novel concludes with a ray of hope that shows positive things can occur even in the darkest moments.  I highly recommend this young adult story to older teen and adult readers.

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Filed under A Breath Too Late, Contemporary, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), Rated B+, Review, Rocky Callen, Young Adult