One Breath away by Heather Gudenkauf


Augie and PJ Baker are staying with their grandparents in Broken Branch Iowa after their mother was burned in a fire back in Arizona. While their grandmother has travelled to Arizona to look after their mother in the hospital they stay with their grandfather, who is a cattle rancher. While PJ settles in and gets along with his grandfather Will, Augie isn’t fairing well and hates being there. Word gets out that there is a gunman in the school and it’s a scramble to find out not only who it is but also why he has taken a classroom of student’s hostage.

There are quite a few characters who feature in this book and while the bulk of the story takes place in the school there are a lot of flashback story telling by the main characters. While it helps with who is who and why they are where they are and how they got to this point in their lives I thought it went too deep into some things that just didn’t matter. The story dragged on and I felt that the book was too long to get to the thrust of the story, which was who was the gunman. I did figure out about a third into the book who it was and once you find out why he did it, the story fell flat.

I was captivated at the start of the book but at the half way point I got bored and it just wasn’t holding me as much as it did at the beginning.

There have been many books written about school shootings and I have read a few of them. The best non-fiction one was Columbine, which I guess is the definitive one. As far as fiction ones, Nineteen Minutes and The Hour I First Believed were two of the better ones, this one just fell flat and it was tedious. This is the first book I have read by Heather Gudenkauf and I wasn’t impressed.

2.5/5 stars



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