Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Place Between Breaths

The Place Between Breaths

Spring 2018 Fiction
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: An Na
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781481422253
Hardcover Price: $17.99

The Place Between Breaths is an achingly beautiful piece of writing that tells the story of a teen girl and her mother's mental illness. But describing the book in those simple terms doesn't do it justice.

Grace, 16, lives with her dad, a busy doctor who is obsessed with recruiting brilliant scientists for the genetic research lab where he works. He's motivated by the fact that his wife, Grace's mom, struggled with schizophrenia until one day she walked away from their home.

Grace is the responsible one. She gets herself up; she goes to high school; she plans dinners. She also interns at the same genetic lab, where she hopes, too, to help find a cure for what drove her mother away. As Grace moves closer to a genetic code breakthrough, it's possible that she may be facing the same illness.

Is this an accurate representation of schizophrenia? Some may argue it isn't. What seems most accurate is that The Place Between Breaths is a captivating impressionist painting of how Grace thinks, feels and hears — a layered look at how she copes, questions, gets angry about and tries to understand — her mother's heartbreaking behavior. And perhaps her own.

Ann Oldenburg   ©2018 Parents' Choice
Ann Oldenburg, assistant director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, began her career at The Washington Post and went on to spend more than two decades with USA Today, where she covered pop culture topics. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

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