Book #89: The Art of Breathing (2014)

61Of1KD6q4L._SL300_Author: T.J. Klune
Language: English
Length: 921 minutes (15 hours and 21 minutes)
Finished listening on: August 17, 2015

I already reviewed the first two books in this series, Bear, Otter and the Kid and Who We Are. This is the third book in the series, but unlike the other two books, which were separated chronologically by only a short time and featured the same main character, this book shifts the focus onto Tyson, The Kid, and takes place after a ten year time jump.

In the story, The Kid also comes out near the start of the book, and he’s already confessed his love at the end of the previous book for his best friend Dominic, a “gentle giant” character. Guess where the story’s going now. But in this story, it all quickly goes wrong when he graduates high school early and travels across the country, with his brother in tow to take care of him. He discovers that Dominic probably isn’t into him when he sees him kissing a girl, and freaks out, essentially cutting the other guy out, which provides the central conflict of the book.

The “art of breathing” in the title refers to a therapeutic method recommended to The Kid to get over his anxiety and panic attacks that come about from his separation from his best friend, and from finding that college life doesn’t suit him well. As a portrayal of anxiety in The Kid’s character, and of the realization that one isn’t as special as one had been led to believe in early life, it’s really true-to-life. As with many other books, I can’t help but feel that if people just sat down to talk about things like normal human beings, the situations between the characters wouldn’t have been so awkward, as perhaps The Kid could have averted the main onset of his anxiety and addiction issues.

Unfortunately, to the book’s detriment, the author doesn’t manage to distinguish the voices of Tyson in this book and Bear in the previous books significantly enough. This book is also written in a stream-of-consciousness style, which becomes tiring sometimes – again, I’m glad that I was listening to the audiobook, as I think it would have been insufferable if I’d been reading it.

At the same time, the book is significant character development for Tyson, as he overcomes some of the difficulties facing him. The same can be said for Dominic, but as for Bear and Otter, the main characters from the previous novels, their role in this story is diminished, and they become stereotypes of themselves.

There were a few more characters introduced too. Tyson is shown to have had a relationship with Corey, who is bigender (a relatively positive representation that I’ve personally never seen before, incidentally) – but his female alter-ego is called Korey, meaning that the narrator of the audiobook has to do verbal gymnastics all the time, reading it out as “Korey with a K” and “Corey with a C” whenever the character appears in a scene. At first I thought this would turn Tyson into a more sexually-healthy adult than his brother, but it’s later revealed that they didn’t actually have sex, and when he finally hooks up with Dominic later in the book, it’s said to be his “first time”. I don’t think the idea of having one true love forever is one that we should be pursuing, so I was a bit disappointed.

Similarly, I thought for a while that it would probably be better if he didn’t actually get together with Dominic – I mean, I know that it’s a romance novel and all, but sometimes we have to suffer rejection to turn into well-adjusted adults! I reckon that I prefer to style of the other gay romance author that I’ve read (Jay Bell), who seems to prefer having a rejection plot earlier on in the book, so that the later romance feels more fulfilling.

As with the previous books in this series, I was hooked from the start, despite being a little annoyed by the writing style. I also cared about the characters a lot. I will probably look into the other books by this author, as he seems to be quite prolific. In fact, there was also an afterword saying that he was planning a fourth and final book in the series, so I’ll probably come back to this series yet.

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One Response to Book #89: The Art of Breathing (2014)

  1. Pingback: Book #107: Tell Me It’s Real (2013) | reuoq

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