Breath by Jackie Morse KesslerBreath by Jackie Morse Kessler

Breath

byJackie Morse Kessler

Paperback | April 16, 2013

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about

Contrary to popular belief, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse aren't just harbingers of doom-they actually keep life in balance. But what happens when their leader and creator, Death, becomes suicidal?Before the first living thing drew its first gasping breath, he was there. He has watched humanity for millennia. And he has finally decided that humanity is not worth the price he has paid time and again. When Death himself gives up on life, a teenager named Xander Atwood is the world's only hope. But Xander bears a secret, one that may bring about the end of everything.This heart-pounding final installment of the Riders of the Apocalypse series looks at the value of life, the strength of love, and how a small voice can change everything . . . forever.
Jackie Morse Kessler is the author of the the Riders of the Apocalypse quartet for teen readers, along with several paranormal and dark fantasy books for adults. She lives in upstate New York. Visit her at www.jackiemorsekessler.com.
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Title:BreathFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.81 inPublished:April 16, 2013Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0547970439

ISBN - 13:9780547970431

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful novel Rage is a powerful, hard hitting novel about self-harm. It doesn't gloss over the disturbing bits and as such is a strong portrayal of the thoughts and feelings behind the disorder. If you've read and liked Hunger, definitely read this one. If you haven't, please check it out! Just like Hunger, Rage is filled with this beautiful writing with descriptions that can really cut into you. Visions of war and violence and blood, sorrow and pain; it's graphic and gritty and amazing. After what happened in the first book, Death is looking for a new War, and that person is Missy. Missy is a cutter, and the life that she has and the hardships she's had to deal with lead her to self harm in order to deal with her feelings. I really, really felt for Missy. She has one friend, got dumped by her boyfriend, and deals with hurtful remarks at school and by her bratty younger sister. The situation that drives her over the edge was so incredibly hurtful and just plain mean I really felt her anger towards her classmates. It takes Missy a little longer to accept her duty as Rider but when she does she raises a little hell (and enjoys it) before she starts to feel the guilt at hurting people and driving them to violence. Similar to the Thin Voice in Hunger, Missy also has the voice of War whispering to her, urging her to draw her sword and do what she was meant to do. Also similar, is how Missy must find her own inner strength and control of her anger. She needs to find a healthier outlet for her negative feelings. I haven't learned the specific of self-harm in my class yet, but I know that the process is cathartic to the person. In Missy's case, the act of cutting herself calms her down and allows her to release all the feelings she'd rather not have and hold inside. It came across and raw and real, and I like how Ms. Kessler isn't afraid to write about the dark sides of these disorders. This is a real and dangerous problem, and the more awareness that's out there the better. On the lighter side of Rage, we do get to see more of the other Horsemen, especially Death. If War is the politician, Pestilence the philanthropist, Famine the cynic, then Death is the philanthropist. As Death's 'handmaiden', Missy lets us see a softer side of Death, though he wasn't exactly the grim reaper+scythe to begin with..still. He's still my fave character. We also get to see a little more of Pestilence, and more importantly, his declining sanity, which makes up a huge part of the next book Loss.Can't wait for that and Death's book Breathe. My review also here: http://allofeverythingforyou.blogspot.com/2011/07/review-rage-by-jackie-morse-kessler.html
Date published: 2011-08-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from An Interesting Story with a Great Message Pros: examines real life issues, sympathetic protagonist who gains inner strength Cons: ending seemed too simplistic given the problems the protagonist faced For Parents: minor sexual content and descriptions of self-inflicting wounds Melissa Miller is a cutter. It's the only way she can deal with the emotions surrounding her. She knows others wouldn't understand. Her ex-boyfriend called her a freak when he saw her scars, and broke up with her. Even so, she doesn't take it well when the personification of Death arrives with a package and tells her her blade's going to slip. Death knows the worst is yet to come for Missy and he's chosen her as the new incarnation of WAR. Though this book is better written than the first of the series, Hunger, in terms of characterization and details, I found myself unable to properly understand Missy's reasoning for cutting herself. She was entirely sympathetic as a protagonist and yet, while without being anorexic I could relate to Lisabeth Lewis, I had a harder time relating to Missy's way of dealing with her problems. I imagine this will not be as much of an issue for most teens (who are deep in the trials of high school), whether they're at risk or not. I also felt the message here overshadowed the story more than in Hunger. I found the ending problematic. Things got wrapped up too quickly for me to feel that the character was honestly going to change how she dealt with things, learn to trust others and become a strong woman in control of herself and her life. I imagine cutting yourself for psychological reasons takes a fair bit of time and effort to overcome. With her parents continuing their neglect of her and the few weeks of intense pressure at school due to the incident that causes her blade to slip, I can't see her rehabilitating as quickly as the ending seems to suggest. On the other hand, the protagonist does start to deal with her problems and learns that she can't overcome some things by herself. She learns there are time when you must trust friends and learns to believe in herself. In addition to this, it has a good message for youth and adults alike, and treats a difficult issue that's relatively ignored when it comes to fiction.
Date published: 2011-04-05

Read from the Book

PROLOGUE:NOW Xander Atwood hated heights. Always had. Ever since he was a kid and chickened out of jumping off the high diving board at the community pool—much to the irritation of the kids behind him who had to make way as he climbed down the ladder, shamefaced—Xander staunchly preferred for the ground to be within easy reach. Going to the top floor of buildings was fine, as long as it wasn’t in one of those funky glass-walled elevators. Driving over bridges gave him fits. Airplanes were right out. Let others soar with the eagles; Xander was perfectly content with an ant’s-eye view. So the fact that he was leaning over the balcony railing of his parents’ apartment building, thirty floors above the street, was a very big deal. “So,” he said. “Want to talk about it?” “Not really,” replied Death. 1THE MÖBIUS STRIP Möbius Strip: a one-sided surface that is constructed from a rectangle by holding one end fixed, rotating the opposite end through 180 degrees, and joining it to the first end.—Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary A sound, like the screech of tires—or maybe the boom of a door slamming shut. Impact, then echoes of contact, then nothing. And then, a beep. And another. And again, until the beeping became an insistent shrill. And then… XANDER Xander Atwood woke with a start. He inhaled quickly, as if he’d forgotten that he’d been holding his breath, and he swatted his alarm clock until he hit the “off” button. The shrilling beep cut off mid-shriek. Success. He exhaled slowly, then grinned. Today was the big day. He was finally going to ask Riley out. Xander hopped out of bed and ducked into the shower. As he shampooed, he went over the plan: During fifth period, when they were both in the library for study hall, he’d casually mention that he was going to grab some pizza after school, and maybe Riley would like to join him. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly a date, but it was a start. All Xander had to do was not vomit all over his sneakers, then he’d be all set. No problem. He’d be fine. Calm. Cool. Not at all freaked out from the thought of talking to Riley Jones. His belly flipped from nerves. Maybe he shouldn’t eat breakfast, just in case. Five minutes later, he was grabbing his clothing. Definitely the royal blue t-shirt, the one that made the blue in his eyes pop. He’d heard Riley mention in passing that there’s nothing better than gorgeous eyes, so Xander wanted to play that up. His friend Ted would bust a gut if he knew that Xander was obsessing over what to wear, but hey, Ted wasn’t the one who was going to be asking Riley out for pizza. Which Xander would absolutely not be too nervous to eat. He got dressed, then looked in the mirror and frowned at the fresh crop of pimples on his brow. Thank God for long hair. Xander busted out the gel and spent ten minutes working on his hair until he got it to that perfect style, the one that looked like he spent no time on his hair and managed to hide the zits. He could practically hear Ted’s guffaws as he told Xander that he was being such a girl. Of course Ted would say that; he never worried about anything. Ted was strictly a play-it-by-ear sort of guy, whereas Xander liked to plan his spontaneity. Could he help it if he had a thing for details? Xander glanced at the clock. He had about five minutes before he had to leave, twenty if he didn’t want to stop at Dawson’s for coffee before school. More than enough time for him to practice his smile. Yikes—way too much tooth. He tried again. Now he looked like he was constipated. Third time was the charm. Smiling his winning smile, he launched into his Asking-Riley-Out-But-Not-Really question. After a few tries, he thought he nailed the inflection, making it sound like he was interested but not too interested. He figured Riley would answer in one of four ways. *** SCENARIO 1: All Goes Well XANDER: Hey, Riley, I’m gonna grab some pizza after school. Want to come? RILEY: Sure! Hey—are you wearing contacts, or are your eyes really that blue? *** SCENARIO 2: Delayed Gratification XANDER: Hey, Riley, I’m gonna grab some pizza after school. Want to come? RILEY: Thanks, wish I could, but I can’t today. I’ve got track. XANDER: Maybe another time. RILEY: That would be great. Hey—are you wearing contacts, or are your eyes really that blue? *** SCENARIO 3: Could Be Worse Somehow XANDER: Hey, Riley, I’m gonna grab some pizza after school. Want to come? RILEY: No. *** SCENARIO 4: Kill Me Now XANDER: Hey, Riley, I’m gonna grab some pizza after school. Want to come? RILEY: …Sorry, do I know you? *** He thought those possibilities covered the bases. Even though part of him was terrified that Riley would opt for either scenario 3 or 4—thus the potential for puking—the rest of him focused on having a fifty-percent chance of either scenario 1 or 2 coming to pass. Fifty-fifty: that was basically a flip of the coin. He spotted his pile of change on his nightstand, and he plucked a bright penny from the top of the heap. “Heads,” he said, then tossed the coin high. He caught it, slapped it onto the back of his hand, and took a look. Heads. He flipped it again. And again: heads. Grinning like a fool, Xander pocketed the coin. Yeah, today was the day. His lucky day. He felt it. He stuffed his backpack for the day’s classload: his evil math textbook, massive enough to be a doorstopper; his equally massive but less evil philosophy textbook, which he actually enjoyed reading; his sketchbook, along with his set of HB pencils and two erasers; his overstuffed, overworked looseleaf binder. Finally, he plucked a novel off his nightstand—Gaiman and Pratchett’s Good Omens, which he was rereading for the gazillionth time—and jammed it into his knapsack. He grabbed his wallet, made sure he had his keys, and then he quietly headed downstairs. He took pains to avoid the creaky steps, because he didn’t want to wake his mom; she hadn’t been sleeping well since her very-pregnant belly had started entering a room before the rest of her. Xander didn’t worry about waking his dad; that man slept like the dead. Then he was out the door and on his way. The entire time he walked to Dawson’s Pizza, he played and replayed the possible scenarios of him (kinda sorta not really) asking Riley out. By the time he got to the pizzeria—open for breakfast starting at the crack of dawn—he was feeling thoroughly nauseated. What if Riley laughed at him? Or, worse: pitied him? What if the answer wasn’t just No, but Hell, No? He squeezed the lucky penny in his pocket and told himself to stop worrying. Today was his lucky day; there was nothing to worry about. He walked into Dawson’s and waved to a handful of guys clumped around tables, but the group he was looking for was off in the corner by the window, basking in the morning spotlight. There was Ted, darkly casual, all lean good looks and radiating mischief, smiling wickedly as he tried to steal a homefry. Across from him, petite Suzie slapped his hand away and stuck out her tongue. Next to her, Izzy laughed and shook her head, her sloppy ponytail swinging across her shoulders. Xander grinned. The table changed daily, but the group was always the same: the four of them, kicking off the school day at the pizzeria. Life was good. He bought a large coffee and a breakfast special, then headed over to join them. “Hey,” he said as he slid onto the bench next to Ted. “Hey,” said Ted and Izzy. “Morning, Zan,” Suzie said around a yawn. “Boring you already?” “Sorry. Up all night studying. Got a Constitutional Law test, and then Debate Team after school.” Xander grinned. “I’m sure you’re gonna do great when you fall asleep in the middle of proving your point. Ow.” That last was after Suzie kicked him. “That’s why I don’t study,” said Izzy. “I need my rest.” “You girls and your beauty sleep,” Ted said, grinning big enough to blind. Izzy smiled sweetly. “Don’t make me kick your ass before breakfast.” “You soccer girls are all so scary.” “I wanna be scary,” Suzie said with a pout.  “Your GPA terrifies me,” said Xander, sipping coffee. “Hey!” Ted flashed him a blinding grin, then he took a bite from half of Xander’s breakfast special sandwich. “He’s practicing to be a starving actor,” Suzie said, glaring at Ted. “Not so starving.” Xander took a bite of his remaining sandwich. “I licked the bagel on that side, by the way.” “Knew it tasted off this morning,” Ted said around a mouthful of special. “Here I thought it was because they don’t use real eggs in the egg sandwiches.” Izzy snorted. “That’s what you get for eating eggs in a pizzeria.” “Someone should tell management they need to do pizza for breakfast.” “Egg pizza?” Suzie made a face. “Ew. Hey, nice shirt, Zan. Makes your eyes real blue.” “Thanks,” Xander said happily. “Okay,” Ted said. “You look like you’re about to burst into song. What’s up?” Xander grinned hugely. “Today’s the day,” he said, feeling like he could fly. “I’m gonna ask Riley out.” Ted, Izzy, and Suzie exchanged a look, then the three of them cracked up. “What?” Xander said, perturbed. “I am. Really.” “Even if I believed you, which, for the record, I don’t,” said Suzie, “your timing is terrible.” “Why?” Izzy laughed. “You really don’t know? Riley’s got mono.” Xander’s heart sank to his toes. “Aw, man.” “You’re such a bad stalker,” Izzy said, wagging a finger at him. “It was all over Facebook this morning.” “That explains why he didn’t know,” said Suzie. “Love you, Zan, but you’re social networkly inept.” Ted was still chuckling. “Kissing disease. Good thing you haven’t asked Riley out yet, or you’d be down for the count too. Oh, wait, no you wouldn’t—you’d never kiss the Amazingly Perfect Riley Jones.” “He’d be too busy worshipping the very ground the Amazingly Perfect Riley Jones walked on,” Suzie agreed. “Too amazingly perfect for him to ever ask out,” said Ted. “Ah, it’s just the universe’s way of telling me to wait,” said Xander, sighing. Ted snorted. “Spoken like the deluded lovestruck fool that you are!” “The universe doesn’t need to tell you anything,” said Suzie, nibbling a homefry. “You’ve waited for…how many years now? Two? Three? You’ve got the waiting thing down pat.” “Seriously,” said Izzy. “Just ask Riley out already. You know, once the whole mono thing is history.” Ted nodded. “What they said.” “I will.” Xander took the penny out of his pocket and flipped it. It came up heads. “I swear it on my lucky penny.” Ted declared, “All hail the lucky penny!” They all said, “All hail!” Xander grinned and took another bite of breakfast. “So today’s not the day,” he said, tucking the penny into his pocket. “That’s okay. I’ve got time.”

Editorial Reviews

PRAISE FOR THE RIDERS OF THE APOCALYPSE SERIES Praise for Hunger: An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers* Realistic and compassionate. . . . the writing is never preachy, and it allows an interesting exploration of both intensely personal food issues and global ones." - SLJ, starred review "Jackie Morse Kessler does a fine job of taking a critical issue that has been explored in writing no small number of times, and putting a new and thought provoking spin on it. . . . Sheer genius." - New York Journal of Books "Powerful, fast-paced, hilarious, heart-wrenching. . . . This story will grab the reader and never let go."- Romantic Times Magazine " Hunger is not just a good book. It is a great book. It is funny and sad, brilliant and tragic, and most of all, it speaks truth. . . . I adore it."- Rachel Caine, author of The Morganville Vampires "A fantastic and gripping read that never shies from its difficult subject matter. . . . This book is a knockout."- A.S. King, author of Everybody See the Ants Praise for Rage: A Junior Library Guild SelectionAn ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers" Rage is raw and real, a truly dark, honest look at self-harm and the teenage psyche. Kessler left me breathless."- Heather Brewer, author of the New York Times bestselling series, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod "The elegant mix of dark humor, brilliantly developed characters, and just enough moral threads to lead readers to make their own conclusions is impressive."- Bulletin "Raw, visceral, pulling no punches, this story strikes home like a razor blade. It's unforgettable, heart wrenching, and enlightening."- Realms of Fantasy Praise for Loss: "Kessler blends fantasy, history, humor, and hard reality into a gripping tale." - SLJ "Jackie Morse Kessler has a keen eye for capturing the awkward uncertainty of adolescence, which she wraps quite deliciously in a coating of mystery, fright, and suspense. Loss is a treat for readers, a one-of-a-kind, twisty turny carnival ride. . . . I loved this book." -Andrew Smith, author of The Marbury Lens "Whip-smart and elegant." -Saundra Mitchell, author of The Vespertine "Gritty and raw with powerful truths. An addictive read." -Sophie Jordan New York Times bestselling author of Firelight Praise for Breath : A Junior Library Guild Selection"A riveting read." -Kirkus Reviews "Kessler has crafted a complex and gritty story that is a fitting end to a series. . . [Breath] will leave readers thinking." - VOYA "The series is a strong and unique attempt to encourage troubled teens to consider their options and accept the help they need, while exposing all readers to the pain their friends may be experiencing." -Booklist "A fast-paced story that captures the darkness of young adulthood while effectively weaving in supernatural elements. . . . This quartet comes highly recommended." - RT Magazine "