REVIEW: Breathe: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish

On a recent trip to the library with my seven-year-old I noticed “Breathe: A Ghost Story” displayed. I’m a big believer in letting my children read whatever library books they want from the children’s section. However, that said, I’m also a big believer that some things are more developmentally appropriate at certain ages than others. I took “Breathe” so that I could read it first. (I also buy library books for my children’s elementary school library though a birthday book program we run, so I always like to be on the lookout for what would be a good selection for us).

“Breathe” tells the story of 12-year-old Jack (who has asthma) and his mother as they purchase an old farmhouse in the English countryside, as they seek to put their lives back together after Jack’s father’s untimely death from a heart attack. Jack is known to be sensitive to spirits and supernatural inclinations, which he picks up through touch of objects. Jack’s presence is noted by four children ghosts who live in the house and a – let’s call it what it is – evil presence of a mother who once lived there along with her young daughter who died of consumption.  Jack communicates with these spirits. The Ghost Mother, as she is called, is keeping the children ghosts captive as she sucks their souls away (through a grossly depicted process of latching onto their mouths and faces), forcing them in time to enter the “Dark Passage” – a type of Arctic hell. Eventually the ghost Mother takes over Jack’s mother’s body (via possession) in order to get closer to him.

Long story short, I was not thrilled with this book. I felt it was disturbing and, particularly for children, the Ghost Mother’s actions were horrifying. As a child, I would have been terrified by this book. As a middle schooler, I might have enjoyed the horror aspect – I loved Stephen King when I was about 14. As an adult I will have my children wait until they are older (than 7) to read this selection from the library!

I seem to be alone in my thoughts if you read the Amazon reviews on this book. As always, all views and opinions in my blog are entirely my own, and your own may differ. I’d love to hear if others have read this book! I’d also love to read something else by McNish as he is a good writer.

Let me know what you think!

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