Title: The Breaths We Take
SynopsisIt’s 1992, and seventeen-year-old Ben
he makes decent grades; and in Ted, Hope, and Doris, he’s got three great
friends he can always depend on. If he only had a boyfriend, life would be
perfect, and he’s working on that.
First, Doris drags him into an ill-fated matchmaking scheme that could destroy
their friendship with Ted and Hope. Then, Grandpa Marty moves in, throwing the
whole Carpenter household into a total uproar. If that’s not enough, the only
way for Ben to get in his community service hours is to volunteer at the senior
center, even though old people give him the creeps. And then there’s that
little matter of his feelings for Ted’s brother Adrian that confuse him and
threaten to expose a secret Ted must never know.
misunderstandings, tender moments, and unexpected ghosts from the past that
reveal a two-decades-old mystery. As events unfold, Ben is forced to reevaluate
what friendship, family, and love are really all about, and he discovers that,
sometimes, there’s more to life than a happy ending.
evolving experience of gay teenagers in different eras—from the psychedelic
sixties, through the me generation seventies and eighties, to the nihilistic
nineties and beyond.
I enjoyed this story, but it's also a bit choppy in it's writing and it could have used more character development.
That said, I like that age difference between Ben and his eventual boyfriend. Their romance however, seems to just happen, without a ton of build-up. I did enjoy the secretive aspect though.
I found the friend storyline a little strange. Yes, it was something teens would do, but it just went too far, in my opinion.
On a side note, we also get to see a middle age romance, as two former lovers are reunited. It's sweet and inspiring. I appreciated a lot of the nursing home moments and characters.
Overall, The Breaths We Take had a lot of promise, and I'm glad I read it, but it definitely feel short.
just seems to come together. Then there are those days when things all fly
apart. Well, there’s also the kind when things begin to change. For me, a sunny
day at the start of my junior year of high school was such a day. It began like
any other, but before it was over, my life had taken a turn, and soon,
everything—from my relationships with friends and family to what I thought I
knew about love—would be changed forever.
outside the lunchroom, just back from Labor Day weekend. Doris and I were
sitting across from Hope and Ted, all of us soaking up the sunshine. The wind
was a little gusty, but nobody was complaining. At least it drove the stench
off. (Only Chadham High would put the dumpsters right around the corner from
the school’s one outdoor eating area.)
shaker was two tables away.
social contract theory. You do little things for us, and we all do little
things for you.”
her face. “Such as making sure you find the right guy to hook up with.”
shaker just out of Ted’s reach. “What do you mean the right guy?”
right guy comes along, we’ll all chip in to help you get him.”
happen. Here. At Chadham High. In this lifetime.”
just got to be patient.”
already halfway over, and I’ve got nothing to show for it. ‘The right guy.’ At
this point, I’d be happy to have any guy show even a hint of interest in me.”
Grant Framingham shuffled past us. Doris raised a sarcastic eyebrow and
snickered, watching me grimace at his weasel-like nose and mousy brown hair.
for the right guy.”
playful, mocking tone.
lunchroom, that luxurious ebony hair of his floating in the breeze, those
dark-chocolate eyes gleaming in the sunlight. My heartbeat quickened, and my
skin tingled at the very sight of him. He was so hot you could get burned by
just touching him—not that I’d ever had that opportunity.
slumping, while various fantasy images danced through my head.
Why oh why couldn’t he be gay?”
“And I’m not a whiner.”
bit—every now and then. But whining just came with the territory when you were
seventeen years old, gay, and devilishly handsome, and you had about as much
chance of finding a boyfriend as winning the lottery.
demographics. Chadham High was one of those places where everybody fit into
neat little boxes. We had the snotty I’m Involved in Everything and All the
Teachers Love Me association. Then there was the I’m a Jock and I’ll Punch Your
Face if I Want To crew. We had the obligatory I’m Smart and You’re Not guild,
the My Religion Says You’re Going to Hell congregation, and any number of the
I’m a (fill in the demographic group of your choice) and I’m Better Than You
societies. And of course, what self-respecting high school would be complete
without the Dude, Pass that Joint tribe? As for the rest, they all fell into
the Please God, Just Let Me Live Long Enough to Get Out of Here nation. That’s
the box Ted, Doris, Hope, and I were all in.
old Chadham High, at least as far as I’d been able to tell over the past two
years, was more than the one lone gay student—me. Now, they say statistically,
at least five percent of any given population will be homosexual. That meant
there should have been about a hundred or so young gay people running around,
and therefore, at least a few of them should have been healthy gay males. But
if there were any other queers at Chadham High besides me, I’d long since come
to the conclusion they were masters of disguise. I mean, sheesh. Talk about
keeping a low profile.
cupped my chin in my hand. “Why can’t any of the beautiful guys around here be
compensation for not giving us straight guys a good sense of fashion.”
mouth hanging open and stared at him.
Hope and I snickered.
shaker, and sighed when he had to half stand to reach it. Then he
unceremoniously dumped an ungodly large mountain of salt on his food.
yourself a coronary.”
mouth. “It’s the only way I can stand to eat this crap.”
shaker and poured a liberal mound of salt onto her own plate.
or an orange.”
through a mouthful of whatever it was he was eating.
peel lying in my tray. There’s sour, and then there’s sour, but the sour in
that orange had just been plain off.
hair. “Has anybody had any luck finding something for their community service
“but they told me all their volunteer openings were already filled weeks ago,
and they’ve got a waiting list a mile long.”
when I called the city park service Friday afternoon. Apparently, the school
board didn’t take into consideration there are only so many volunteer positions
available in Chadham County. Adding juniors and seniors to the number of
underclassmen already required to do CS was an idea bound to fail.”
got mine all set and ready. I talked with my priest, and she said I could help
out preparing the Saturday meals-on-wheels plates.”
help out there too?”
they need though. She told me they’ve got a pretty large group of people
working it. But yeah, I’m sure they’ll let you. And even if they don’t, if I
drive you there Saturday, they’ve at least got to give you credit for the time
you’re there with me.”
Are you having any luck?”
I’m having great luck—all of it bad. Last week, I went to city hall, and they
said no to everything, even the neighborhood beautification program.
Apparently, you’ve got to have some kind of advanced degree in agriculture just
to pull up weeds around here. And Saturday, I even checked out the library.
up with something. Two hundred hours is a lot of time to fill, especially if
you’ve got to limit it to weekends and after school.”
sure you’ll both find something.”
Your middle name wouldn’t happen to be ‘Springs Eternal’ by any chance, would