One Breath Away- Heather Gudenkauf

Image from Amazon

Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge via netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Note: This book is not yet released in the UK. It is due to be released on 6th July 2012

Synopsis (from Amazon)

He has a gun.Who? Tell me, where are you? Who has a gun?I love you, Mum.An ordinary school day in March, snowflakes falling, classroom freezing, kids squealing with delight, locker-doors slamming.Then the shooting started. No-one dared take one breath…

He s holding a gun to your child s head.

One wrong answer and he says he ll shoot.

This morning you waved goodbye to your child.

What would you have said if you d known it might be the last time?


I’ve often heard Heather Gudenkauf being compared to Jodi Picoult, who is a bit of favourite for me. I’ve only read one book by Gudenkauf before, The Weight of Silence, which I partially read because I had read a good review, and partly read because it looked at a topic Picoult hadn’t explored- so I didn’t have to worry about comparing it to another novel. Picoult has written a book about a school shooting, Nineteen Minutes,  so I was a little concerned that I would end up comparing One Breath Away to Nineteen Minutes. Fortunately the parallels pretty much ended with the main topic so I was able to more or less read One Breath away as a book in its own right.

A big storyline was about trying to work out who the shooter was without seeing them. There was a certain element of mystery in this for the reader, however as the reader was able to see the shooter some of the theories were obviously untrue. In some ways I think it may have been better if the shooter was referred to in a more neutral way (e.g. by simply calling them the shooter which wouldn’t reveal anything about their gender, age, or race), this would have made it more of a mystery for the reader. Still it held enough mystery and suspense to make me want to keep reading to find out the answer- who was the gunman and why was he attacking the school. I did guess who it was before the end but I think maybe Gudenkauf writes so the reader will guess a little before the characters make a discovery because there is some victory in being able to guess ‘who dunnit’. Personally I prefer to be a bit shocked and surprised but I can see how some people may prefer being able to correctly guess.

I did really enjoy the shooting storyline, especially how the reader could see different points of view of the shooting. It would have been nice to see the gunman’s view to an extent, however it wasn’t essential and it would have taken some mystery out of the story.

I did have one problem with the book though, there were just to many different storylines. There was of course the main storyline of the shooting, but all the characters seemed to have some other issue which was effecting their lives. I can see why Gudenkauf did it generally- it provided more possible suspects- but it was just to much.


You cannot yet purchase One Breath Away but you can pre-order it from Amazon:

Paperback (£3.92)

Kindle (£6.39)

Other Reviews:

Giraffe Days

Leeswammes’ Blog

Have I missed your review? Link me up.


Filed under Contempory, Crime, Fiction review, Mystery

4 responses to “One Breath Away- Heather Gudenkauf

  1. I haven’t read any of Picoult’s work, but I could see how Nineteen Minutes might be compared with this one. I did enjoy the ambiguity of One Breath Away, but like you felt that there were a few too many characters.


  2. You should try her. My Sister’s Keeper is very good but my favourite is Handle with Care


  3. Pingback: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf –

  4. Pingback: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf - a Review

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