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First love, first heartbreak and a slice of life

Love, heartbreak, family complications and the nuances of relationships – Jennifer Niven tackles it all with her captivating prose. Through reminiscence or present lived reality, Breathless resonates with us all. Relive your own special moments with an excerpt:

I stand for a long time, staring out over the water, black and endless except for the glow of lights in the far distance. And this, I know, is the mainland. It might as well be light-years away.

I wait for a boat to appear. I wait for Miah to come.
I wait.
I wait.

Suddenly, I don’t feel the rain on my skin or my hair or my clothes because the only thing I feel is the ache in my heart. An ache like I’ve never felt before. It’s both terrible and beautiful. And it fills me. It fills me.

We were supposed to have more time.

We’re always supposed to have more time.

I sink onto the bench, which is damp and which leaves me damper. At some point the rain stops completely. I look up and the stars overhead are a carpet of light. There’s this feeling I have here. Miah’s a part of it. But he’s not all of it. It’s the summers of childhood when I was eight, ten, twelve. And those kinds of beautiful moments where everything is full of love and light and possibility.

I rest one hand on the wood of the seat and my fingers bump into something cool and smooth. I look down. A shark tooth. The largest one I’ve ever seen. And there, drawn around it, a circle.


I turn back up the path and walk toward the inn, shark tooth in my pocket. Through the trees, the porch lights shine like beacons, like lanterns illuminating the way to the world beyond. I go up the steps, feet splashing in the little dips inthe wood. I slip on my shoes, brush the hair off my face, but otherwise I don’t bother. This is me, take it or leave it—wet and rumpled and missing Miah.

“Claude?” Mom’s voice calls out to me from the end of the porch. She is perched on the edge of the swing, as if she’s been watching for me. I walk over and sit down beside her, a lump in my throat as large as the ocean.

“Everything okay?” she says. And she knows. I can see it in her face.

Breathless Front Cover by Jennifer Niven
Breathless || Jennifer Niven

“It will be.” But my heart doesn’t believe it.

She takes my hand, and the swing rocks back and forth, back and forth, as we listen to the rain.

At 9:53, I feel it. The island is emptier because he’s no longer on it.

I don’t want to go home yet, so I head to the beach, not caring if I run into alligators or snakes or wild hogs. Under the trees, over the dunes, onto the sand, until I’m beneath the moon and all this sky. I’m too restless to sit. I drop my bag and kick off my shoes and walk. The tide rolls in like thunder and I’m the only one here.

I walk for at least a mile. I’m trying not to look at the lights in the distance, the ones that are the neighboring islands. Because beyond those islands is the mainland, and on that mainland is Jeremiah Crew, who didn’t say goodbye.



Breathless is a beautiful celebration of the joys and pangs of stepping into adulthood, and moments that are uniquely memorable to us all.

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