Skip to main content




“Most people believe they have a clear idea of what’s right and wrong. Many say they know how they’ll act, or how they’ll handle an extreme situation. But to be honest, no one knows. Not really…Because none of us truly knows what we’ll do when the circumstances become so overwhelming and complex that we can’t even tell right from wrong.”

Travis Morrison has the kind of life high school kids can only dream about. He is a champion diver with college prospects heating up. He has managed to snag a high-profile girlfriend in Darla Gibson, and their relationship is one based on trust and actual love. He also has his trusty sidekick Cooper and his little sister Emily, who surprisingly can be quite bearable in most situations. He is driven and knows exactly what he wants. The future seems bright, and nothing looks like it could get in the way.

On a lazy summer afternoon, however, the future turns murky. Travis, Cooper, Darla and Emily are out boating in Travis’s favorite diving spot when the unthinkable happens. On a high cliff dive, Travis’s leg snaps and he plunges into the water below. Hospital tests reveal a tumor growing on his right leg and the realization of bone cancer. Immediately Travis’s leg is amputated along with his planned future. No one is sure how to react. Emily is ready for Darla to abandon Travis. Cooper wishes he could take Travis’s place. Darla is scared to lose the only person who actually cares for her. And Travis begins to withdraw, especially from his parents, who seem not to truly understand what has happened. 

At first, some minor alterations are made and life goes on as normal. Travis is fitted with a prosthetic and gets back into the normal high school routine. Darla and Cooper faithfully visit even amidst difficult home lives. Emily continues to stay close to her brother despite the circumstances. As the cancer continues to spread, though, Travis witnesses firsthand in the cancer ward the life he does not want for himself. He bravely asks his parents for a Do Not Resuscitate order if it should come to that, but his mother refuses. Instead, Travis turns to the only people he can trust: Darla, Cooper and Emily. He shares his wishes of dying instead of being hooked up to a machine. But is one of them willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?  

We’ve all seen some highly publicized cases concerning assisted suicide in the media. It would be easy to say that BREATHLESS is just another book about the topic of euthanasia, but it is much deeper than that. The story is told in alternating viewpoints, and author Lurlene McDaniel infuses strong emotion and depth into each character that it makes you question your own beliefs. While there are no gory details specifically mentioned in the book, there is an underlying sense of desperation threaded throughout. McDaniel never gets preachy, which I appreciated, and ultimately lets the reader decide what is “right” and “wrong.” 

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on May 12, 2009

by Lurlene McDaniel

  • Publication Date: September 14, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0440240166
  • ISBN-13: 9780440240167