Just breathe by Andrew Daddo
Penguin, 2018. ISBN 9780143573623
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Who doesn't love a modern-day Romeo and Juliet? A schoolboy athlete, Hendrix has no social life, thanks to his father's ambition for his son to win both the State and National titles. Paul isn't just Drix's coach but a drill sergeant, demanding 100 percent dedication to: training, diet and even clandestine oxygen therapy. But Dad didn't bargain on a distraction like Emily.
Emily and her mother Anna are from Benalla. They are only living in the big smoke temporarily, so that Emily's medical condition can be monitored closely by a Melbourne specialist. It's Emily's new puppy Lucky, who brings the unlikely pair together. First love proves to be so intense that escaping overprotective parents occupies most of their time. The alternating narrations in Book 1, quickly dissolve into one single all-seeing narrator in Book 2. This strategy works well to strengthen the connection between the main characters.
With Hendrix's phone confiscated, reunions after even a few days separation, only heighten their attraction.
"They didn't even kiss. They just stood on the platform together as one. Hendrix thought she was laughing because she was jiggling so much, and when he pulled his head back to look at her she burrowed deeper into his shoulder. That's when he knew she was crying. The way she let go loosened the tap for him as well. By the time the platform had cleared, Emily and Hendrix had practically melted into each other. Anna hung back inside the station, watching. 'Thank you', she whispered to no one in particular'."(p 298)
As romances go, this one is not intentionally sentimental, likely due to the amount of detail about athletics training. Adding depth are a number of other complex issues eg father/son and mother/daughter relationships, the city/country divide, bioethics and more. Andrew Daddo has penned his best YA novel yet, with this heart-rending romance that should appeal to both sexes.