The book begins in England in 1995 with a peek into the life of 15-year-old Amy Stevenson - a young girl with a few good friends, a mother and stepfather she adores (well, most of the time - she's 15, after all), a sweet boyfriend - and a big secret. Fast-forward 15 years and we see Amy again; this time, we learn she's been in a coma for all those years, the victim of a vicious assault. Her secret , it seems, still is safe.
Now, though, that could change. Amy is unable to communicate, but freelance reporter Alex Dale is chomping at the bit to do a human-interest story on comatose patients and zeroes in on Amy. Alex, though, comes with secrets of her own; she's got an ex-husband she still loves (a cop), a former but once-promising career as a journalist and an addiction she just can't sweep under the rug. But as she begins to dig into what really happened to Amy - police investigated the case back then but found no conclusive evidence - Alex becomes more determined each day to get to the truth and, at least in some measure, bring closure both to herself and to Amy.
Chapters of the book, which for the record I received for review from the publisher via Netgalley, shift from present to past - a technique that works perfectly here for a couple of reasons. First, each chapter is subtitled with the year and name of the character whose perspective is showcased; that alone alleviates the confusion I've experienced in other books over who's who and what's what. More importantly, each chapter reveals just enough information to compel me to keep going. In fact, I read this book over two days, setting it down with great reluctance and telling my very hungry husband, "Just one more chapter, honey" so often that he finally rolled his eyes, picked up the phone and ordered a pizza.
There's a lot more I'd love to say, but because the layers of truth are peeled back slowly in successive chapters (very skillfully, I might add), doing so would spoil things for other readers. But one thing I'll shout from the rooftops: This is one of the best books I've read in a while. Highly recommended!
Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon (Ballantine Books, February 2016); 368 pp.