Lurlene McDaniel

Random House Children
Hardcover/176 pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-73459-2
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. . .the story leaves you “Breathless.”"

High school junior Travis Morrison has everything. His life is planned out. He is a champion diver who can do anything in the water. Living life on the edge every minute, he’s been lucky…until the day he tries to dive from Chimney Rock. In that moment, his life changes drastically. It will never be the same again.

Travis discovers he has cancer—bone cancer in his upper thigh. He fights it hard like he’s done everything else in his life, focused on recovery, secure in the love of his parents and sister, trusting in God, depending on his best friend Coop and Darla, the light of his life. Despite the best treatment available, he ends up sacrificing the cancerous leg, but even that isn’t enough. The killer disease eats away at the once-strong athletic body until only a shell remains. Travis makes a decision that puts his three closest companions into an ethical dilemma none of them had ever contemplated before, a decision no one should have to face as a teenager.

Lurlene McDaniel takes readers into the minds of the four teens who are the primary characters in the book. She shows us Cooper, the strong, silent kid who’s not like all the other kids in his Alabama school. He’s part Hawaiian, part Korean, and he doesn’t fit until Travis takes him on as his best friend. But Coop also has to deal with his alcoholic mother and his own tendency to drink too much. Then there’s Darla, the high profile girl for all the wrong reasons, whose life Travis touches with kindness and love, giving her a reason to tolerate an abusive father. There’s his little sister Emily, a freshman, who likes order in her life unlike her brother, “Who never met a rule he could obey.”

This story will grab you and make you read it in one sitting. I made the mistake of thinking I’d read just a bit before I turned in at 11 p.m. one night. I finished the book at 1 a.m., emotionally jolted, somewhat disturbed, but satisfied with the ending. It was an ending I didn’t expect, but it made sense. It felt right. And the title fits—the story leaves you Breathless.

Reviewer: Janet Musick