Saturday, 30 June 2018

Blog Tour: Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather - Review & Author Guest Post

Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather

Publishing Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 336
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "Sixteen-year-old Indy struggles to conceal her pregnancy while searching for a place to belong in this stunning debut novel. Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules—to study hard in school, be respectful, and to never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow. When Indy is sent to live with distant relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth. Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found the place. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls and a roof—it’s about the people she chooses to share it with" (S&S).

My overall thoughts and review: Before I begin, I just want to state some trigger warnings related to the book: rape, sexual assault, and abuse. Despite the dark subject matter, I find books like this incredibly important and needed, especially in our current time. I was really drawn to the book to begin with because I haven't read a book in a Bahamian setting before, and the premise of Indy trying to find a place called home, really resonated with me. From the very beginning, I was drawn to Indy's voice. She's one of those characters that you just want to reach out and give a big hug to. She finds herself trying to conceal a pregnancy in a home where her aunt really doesn't like her, and where her abuser lurks quite nearby. Indy happens upon a yoga retreat one day, and from there builds relationships with those that run the retreat: Joe and Dion. Despite the rocky beginnings of their meeting, they both grow to become really important figures for Indy. They are both kind of the rough around the edges, but with a heart of gold kind of characters.

As someone who started yoga a few years back, I loved seeing Indy learn about yoga, and how it was able to give her some semblance of peace during her dark times. There's one particular scene where Indy is talking to a fellow yogi about breathing during yoga, and Susan says to her: "If something's that bad, don't breathe to pretend you're not there. Breathe to make the right moves to get out" (209). I love that quotation so much because it's the turning point for Indy. It's in that moment, she is able to find her voice and agency again, and to do what she thinks is best for herself.

I don't want to say too much more without spoiling the book, but this book definitely packs a punch. In addition to writing a strong protagonist voice, Mather also does a wonderful job of writing secondary characters. Some other characters I didn't mention, but I really enjoyed reading about were Smiley (she drove me crazy at times, but she is a good cousin through and through), Churchy (he is seriously one of the good ones), and Grammy (I loved hearing Grammy talk about Indy's mother). Mather focuses on the concept of a blended family for Indy and that's really important because it emphasizes a strong support group for survivors like Indy. This is timely read that speaks to not only the #MeToo movement, but it reminds us readers that we are not confined by our past, and that we always have the option to make choices that we believe is right and that we want.

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮½ (4.5/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon, and Book Depository

Author Guest Post
TOPIC: If you could choose which actresses, and actors could bring your characters to life on the big screen who would they be, and why?
For Indy, I see an actress along the lines of Amber Riley.  A lot of what would make the right person to play that part is the look.  It irks me when a character is supposed to have a full-figured build, but someone who’s barely past slender is cast in the role.  The same goes for details like complexion—Indy’s got a darker skin tone, so that would have to be reflected in whoever portrayed her, and reflected accurately—not by clumsy use of foundation.  The same goes for Smiley’s character; she’s lighter in complexion, and pretty spindly, so I’d want to see that reflected in a choice of actress.  
When I think of an actor playing Churchy’s character, I could see someone like Caleb McLaughlin—a few years older, and a lot taller, playing his part.  I’d pick someone who could capture Churchy’s ordinary, gangly, and sweetly awkward ways. 
Across the board, one of the most important things is voice: all the actors and actresses should to be able to accurately and authentically speak Bahamian dialect.  I’ll be a regional spokesperson and say that all of us Caribbean folks are sick in our own mouths when we hear our accents being butchered or when we’re depicted as ever-smiling hospitality industry robots or exotic and oversimplified beach trinkets that just happen to knock about the islands as part of a wider cultural experience.  Regardless of region, we all want to see ourselves, our communities, our people depicted accurately.  If I had any say at all, that would be my biggest must-have, across the board.
Thank you so much, Janice, for swinging by the blog and offering some insight on who you think would be good in a film or tv version of your book. I really hope that it can come to life in the big screen one day!

Be sure to stop by other stops on the tour for more content! ;) 

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Simon and Schuster Canada for participation in the book tour. All opinions of the book are my own.

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