There are a lot of stories written about how alcohol use can lead people to make a decision that will destroy many lives. These stories are appealing because it is too easy to think of someone in our own lives that has made the unwise decision to drive drunk. This is reality. I can name several classmates and friends who will never get married, have children, graduate from college, travel the world, have careers, laugh again, go swimming in the ocean, or climb mountains. Their lives are forever extinguished because they were one of those people who made that one horrible, stupid decision.
The sad thing is, it will happen again. We live in a society that glamorizes alcohol. I'm not going to sit here and preach about how alcohol is bad and society is going to hell because of it. Truthfully, I like a good glass of wine and if I had enough money, I'd probably collect it and have a super snazzy wine cellar. I also used to work in a liquor store and can attest to the fact that this is a lucrative business that isn't going to disappear anytime soon.
Because of the prevalence of the drunk driving story in American culture, I think it is often hard to write a story that adequately captures the loss and devastation people have experienced when it goes wrong and people don't plan their night out properly to ensure they have a safe way of getting home. Unfortunately, I think Ten Tiny Breaths really misses the point. The drunk driving accident in this story is used as an excuse for Trent and Kasey's self-destructive actions, but the story doesn't critique alcohol abuse or say anything about the perception of alcohol within American culture. Sure, people in other countries drink. However, most of these places have a mass transit system that permits a safer way to travel home if they can't drive. This isn't the case in the U.S. - the land in which you must drive to get anywhere worthwhile. If you don't plan your night out and designate a sober driver among your group of friends, then your options are to crash on the floor (or couch, if you're lucky) of a friend's apartment, shell out cash you don't have to spend the night sobering up in a hotel, get leered at by creepy or other drunk people late at night on a bus trip that will likely last 1-2 hours, or get a lengthy lecture from an angry parent or sibling that you woke up in order to get both you and your car from the bar.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Kasey's story is she spent several years following the tragic car accident randomly hooking up with men, experimenting with drugs, and drinking excessively. I'm not judging, but clearly her way of coping with her grief is seriously unhealthy and her behavior seems kind of unrealistic for someone who lost most of her family in a car accident involving a drunk driver. In addition to this, the protagonist celebrates her 21st birthday toasting champagne with her boyfriend and friends at the adult club in which she is a bartender. The fact that Kasey is making money selling the drug that played such a prominent factor in destroying her life is so twisted and nonsensical. Perhaps the author is trying to show irony, but celebrating Kasey's "right of passage" into drinking culture seems like a slap in the face and inappropriate given the nature of the trauma she has suffered. Apparently, she only turns 21 once and every person must drink on this occasion.
Again, it's the glamorization of alcohol. It just didn't sit right with me. It isn't just the alcohol issue that rubbed me the wrong way. There's a serious problem with this whole New Adult genre. The lead male character is always this irresistible alpha male who conceals some truth about his motives or identity. One look at him makes the protagonist lose all ability to think and function. It's degrading to the character and not at all intriguing or romantic. Trent is a possessive stalker, emotionally abusive, manipulative and completely selfish. Nothing about what he did to Kasey was okay. NOTHING.
It's getting a 2 star rating because I'm feeling generous and I actually liked some of the supporting characters, mainly Livie, Mia, and Storm. There are other books that do a much better job of addressing the issue of alcohol abuse and drunk driving. I'd recommend skipping this one.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Atria Books, for permitting me to read an Advance Readers Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review