I was really pleased to get an advance copy of One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf which will be published by MIRA in June 2012. I read her first novel The Weight of Silence about 18 months ago and really enjoyed it, so was looking forward to One Breath Away.
The story takes place over just a few hours, in a small American town called Broken Branch and is told by the main characters involved. A man has entered Broken Branch School and he has a gun, he has taken a class of kids hostage - nobody knows who he is or what he wants.
Using individual character's voices and stories to narrate is a very clever way of letting the reader know as much as possible about each of them whilst still concentrating on the main event of the plot. The chapters are, on the whole, short and to the point which I found really engaging, and made me want to carry on reading. Just as the reader discovers something about one character the narrative turns to another, leaving you wanting to know more and looking forward to the next instalment.
I enjoyed this book very much, it's a quick read, yet very compelling. Each character voice was very lifelike, all had their issues and their flaws, yet all of them were likeable. It's more than just a 'school shooting' story though, there are many unresolved issues floating about and back stories that explain why each character reacts in the way that they do.
The tension levels rise towards the end, as the gunman's identity and reasoning are unveiled, and there was no way I even came close to guessing who it was!
A great novel, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from Heather Gudenkauf.