The Place Between Breaths

by An Na

Grace is a high school senior with a coveted intern position at the genetics lab... read more

Grace is a high school senior with a coveted intern position at the genetics lab where her dad recruits scientific researchers. Her schizophrenic mother left them when Grace was a small child, a loss that echoes continuously. Grace finds her dad’s obsession with the lab’s work trying to isolate a gene for schizophrenia frustrating. It’s not like isolating a gene will lead automatically to a cure, and it’s not like her mom will benefit—they have no idea what happened to her. Grace wishes her dad devoted more of his time and attention to her. A beautifully written narrative moves between Korean American Grace in the present day—her lonely life at home, her work at the lab, where she meets graduate student Will; her early childhood memories in which her parents’ love and her mom’s increasingly unpredictable behavior and growing sense of desperation filters through—and second-person chapters in which an unknown speaker addresses an unknown “you.” Locating oneself in the story becomes more and more challenging in a novel that parallels Grace’s own experience as it becomes clear she also has schizophrenia. Like Grace, it’s hard to know what is real. But beyond the fear, pain, and sense of loss in this aching, deeply resonant novel, are glimmers of hope, too. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2019

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