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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Jus Breathe by B. Lynn Carter is set in the turbulent 1960s of New York City. Dawn Porter, a sixteen-year-old girl, has carried the burden of looking after herself since her father's departure for a reason that discredits her very being during her early childhood. Dawn's breaking point is when her mother's next husband proves violent, and the walls Dawn has built up out of pure self-preservation make her ability to survive solo an asset. For the people who enter Dawn's ever-changing sphere, those walls are also subject to locking them out. All of this changes when Danny Barrett, a rough around the edges drug dealer, takes a sledgehammer to Dawn's walls. She feels full in their passionate relationship even when she cannot grasp that she's being emotionally starved, but when her belly unexpectedly fills with Danny's baby, Dawn's lifelong struggle to achieve her dreams intensifies as she faces the complexities of possible motherhood.
Jus Breathe is an incredibly deep and profoundly honest look at a young woman's life that leaves a lasting impact long after B. Lynn Carter has signed off with Dawn's last word. My mother used to say that there are two types of fragile. There is fragile like a flower, and there is fragile like a bomb. To me, initially, when Dawn exits her mother and stepfather's home, she is fragile like a bomb. Fortunately, she is in absolute control of her power, for better or for worse. When Danny enters the picture, Dawn shifts to the fragility of a flower. I guess you could say that Danny defuses her but he is able to only because she lets him. There is one scene where they are in his dark room talking about their first sexual experiences and it is absolutely haunting. As a reader, time stood still and I was in that room, curled with smoke and their voices. Carter's brand of storytelling is the type that leaves an imprint, and as a person of color reading a novel where a woman of color is making her way in a world as harsh then as it is now, Jus Breathe is the literature I want to see in the hands of young women. Very highly recommended.