Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Posted May 20, 2015 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Young Adult / 18 Comments

Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
Series: Once Upon a Crime Family #1
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Published on: May 19 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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In Penelope Landlow's world, almost anything can be bought or sold. She's the daughter of one of the three crime families controlling the black market for organ transplants. Because of an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily, Penny is considered too "delicate" to handle the family business, or even to step foot outside their estate.

All Penelope has ever wanted is independence-until she's suddenly thrust into the dangerous world all alone, forced to stay one step ahead of her family's enemies. As she struggles to survive the power plays of rival crime families, she learns dreams come with casualties, betrayal hurts worse than bruises, and there's nothing she won't risk for the people she loves.

Perfect for fans of Holly Black and Kimberly Derting, this first book in the stunning new Once Upon a Crime Family series from acclaimed author Tiffany Schmidt will leave readers breathless.


The first thing that struck me about this book was the title: HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH.

There are a lot of different ways you can hold someone, and I’ve heard innumerable similes in that regard, but never that one . . . “like a breath.”

You hold your breath like it’s yours, like it belongs to you, b/c it does. And whether you’re holding your breath b/c you’re underwater or b/c smelly things or for any other reason, you’re fighting yourself, b/c your natural inclination is to breathe.

So for someone else to hold you like a breath . . . they would have to think that they own you, and they would have to stifle you, b/c as the breath that’s being held . . . your greatest wish is to escape . . . to be free.

Unsurprisingly, the title is appropriate, and for more reasons than I expected.


I’m really not sure what to do with this book . . . It’s been called YA fantasy and a retelling of a fairy tale, and if the author herself hadn’t referred to it as such in her note at the end of the book, I’d have thought it was another marketing misfire: grasping at straws and tangential connections to make the book appealing to a broader demographic.

However, regardless of Schmidt’s intent, only the flimsiest connections keep this story from being a standard YA contemporary romance, or maybe a romantic suspense. Even with the references to Once Upon a Mattress, which I’ve seen performed and very much enjoyed, it completely escaped me that HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH was supposed to be a retelling of The Princess and the Pea.

About two-thirds of the way in I finally caved and skimmed a few early reviews, one of which clued me in . . .

In hindsight, I can see it . . . a little bit . . . b/c Penny Landlow (our heroine) has an autoimmune disease, and at its nastiest, laying on a (dried or frozen) pea could literally leave a bruise. It also helps that as far as fairy tales go, THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA is pretty lame vague.


There’s nothing fantastical about having an autoimmune disease, and the singular aspect in which this world diverges from reality has to do with illegal organ transplants and the mafia-style families that govern them (also not fantastical), and that, in my humble opinion does not a “fantasy” make.

In fact, there’s almost an entire subgenre of contemporary romance that fixates on Bad Boy mafia men, and there are no more aspirations of being shelved as fantasy with them then there are in the love-me-I’m-famous (movie/rock star) category. At best I’d call this a modern retelling ร  la Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet. But that’s not a fair comparison either, b/c Baz Luhrman’s ROMEO + JULIET is the best modern retelling EVER.

And this . . . well, the story was fairly predictable. There was only one key plot point that I didn’t guess in advance (but even there I half guessed it), and some of the betrayals felt a bit OTT, as did the almost horror movie vibe b/c Bad Guy won’t die. I also like a bit less tragedy and a bit more hope in my YA reads . . .

There’s a reason I don’t read romances in which one of the characters is a ghost, and that reason is that a HEA is impossible. Plus it’s just painful to watch. It’s similarly painful to watch Penny b/c she’s so damn breakable. Admittedly, this scenario is slightly different, b/c she’s sick, not dead, and there was a definite hint of a cure if she’s brave enough to risk it, but this being YA, it probably won’t happen until the very last second of the very last book, so be prepared for that.

HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH by Tiffany Schmidt is less fairy tale retelling, more YA romance. If I had known that going into it, I probably would have enjoyed it more. That being said, taken as what it is, it’s not bad. A sheltered heroine who is determined to stand on her own two feet and a frog-turned-prince kept me entertained, and unlike me, you can read it with more realistic expectations. Recommended if you enjoy YA romance and the “family” life.

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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18 responses to “Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

  1. Pili from In Love With  

    I’m gonna be skipping this one for sure because A) YA romances per se are not really my thing, at all and very rarely I enjoy them and B) As a nurse working with haematological patients that has treated MANY patients with the same autoimmune illness that the main character suffers here, I know it’s gonna bother me VERY much when it’s used as an excuse and not addressed properly…

    Great review Jessica, at least it got 3 stars!
    Pili recently posted…Xpresso Book Tours Blog Tour for Hunting Season by Nikki Jefford!!

  2. Mary from BookSwarm  

    This was supposed to be a retelling? I had no idea. Of course, I DNFed it because I couldn’t stand the male MCs (including the brother) and the plot did not catch my attention (though I picked it up because I *did* like the premise. Alas.). It just read as if it was trying to be too much at once with not a whole lot of focus to hold it together.
    Mary recently posted…Cover Reveal: The Dead To Rights Series by Cheryl Ann Smith (plus, a giveaway!)

  3. I know right now that this would be the wrong book for me. Retellings and I just don’t get along, and this has several issues that are more or less dealbreakers for me. The ghost thing is one of mine, too, and sick, powerless protagonists are a close second.

  4. I really love the whole mafia family concept behind this and the premises sounds like it would just be so much fun. Even though this wasn’t perfect, I do love how unique it is overall even if it didn’t completely pan out like most people were hoping it would. I do think I would like to read this someday. Maybe after the second book comes out and hopefully wows everyone.

    Great review Jessica!
    kindlemom1 recently posted…WoW Pick of the Week!

  5. Too bad about that gorgeous cover! Yours, unfortunately, is not the first not entirely complimentary review I’ve read about this one. Everyone seems to have expected more, and everyone agrees on the flimsiness of the novel in general. It’s pity, because the potential is right there, in the blurb…
    Ramona recently posted…Creativity Misconceptions

  6. I’m less sure about the mafia aspect than the autoimmune parts. I like books that sort of demystify and perhaps even magicify (it’s a word… I just made it up) a disorder a child has no control over. It is a hard balance between that and exploitation, however. Still, this just feels like it almost achieves what it wants but doesn’t quite get there.
    Melissa (Books and Things) recently posted…Blog Tour: Rachel’s Deception by Karen Ann Hopkins

  7. YA fantasy? That’s really not what I expected at all either. Just from reading reviews, I’m getting a pretty good idea of what this story is about, and so far the predictability and the mafia family stuff doesn’t really interest me. Auto immune disease is a scary thing, but I mean laying on a frozen pea? That’s pretty loose. Great review Jessica!
    Jeann recently posted…Indulgence Insider #29 โ€“ My Library Book Haul