Before I Breathe: A Novel

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Kalena Moore is a Montgomery High student who isn't into school. Life becomes more interesting when Kalena starts dating Isaiah Wilkins, but soon things spin quickly out of control and she gets pregnant. Then Kalena sees another side to her boyfriend.

Determined to put her life back together, Kalena takes a new path, navigating the pitfalls along the way. More

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About Jenelle Jack Pierre

Jenelle Jack Pierre grew up in Maryland. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and the MA in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University, she writes young adult fiction and contemporary short stories.

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Reviews

Review by: Liza Butler on March 14, 2013 : star star star
The book was engaging. I felt the teenagers in the book were typical had typical teen issues. Kalena fell for one of the popular guys in school and felt special when with him. Her desire to please him was stronger than the desire to please herself. She seemed a little reluctant to give it up for about 5 seconds, and then she couldn’t help herself. In a relationship for just a few weeks and already pregnant and moving into his family home; that was a bit much.

She let the outside influence her life too much. She let her “boyfriend” dictate her life without him even trying. She needed tough love and a wake up call. She wasn’t a bad kid, just made bad choices.

It is a quick read for a young adult without too much emotion. Gives them the overview of a year in the life of a teenage girl make one bad decision that cause a ripple effect of other bad things.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Ezinwanyi on July 05, 2012 : star star star
This book was 3.25 stars for me. It wasn't as fluid and lacked emotional depth.

The story was about Kalena More, a fifteen year old sophomore in high school and her growing pains. Kalena seemed like your typical teenager who loved going to the mall with friends and talking on the phone.

When she is assigned a new partner in her P.E class, Kalena develops a crush on him. Isaiah is a good looking, playful and popular guy, so of course Kalena hopes that he could come to care for her. Soon after she discovers that Isaiah is interested, they begin spending all their time together, excluding of Kalena's other friends. Soon after they become close, Kalena discovers that she is pregnant. At 15 years old, she doesn't know what to do. She can't even take care of herself, so what can she do for a baby?

This novel gives a realistic account of a year in the life of a teenager. Kalena's blasé attitude about sex, school work and even her future seems characteristic of this age group. She was clearly immature, and clearly in over her head. While I felt sorry for her, I couldn't help wondering about her family structure. Kalena's mom and dad was there, so why was she attention starved? I'll admit the relationship between Kalena and her parents was an enigma as I couldn't tell if they were close to her. They didn't seem as emotionally connected, so maybe that is why Kalena glommed on to the first guy who paid her any attention. Also, Kalena began going over Isaiah's house everyday after school. Didn't her parents ask her where she was, and what she was doing? Perhaps they could have encouraged her to be in after school clubs and other activities to keep her busy.

I would have liked more character building. I would have liked to know the characters better. Kalena didn't seem ambitious before the baby. I can't speak for Isaiah. We don't know about Isaiah's academic dreams but he seemed to be doing well academically. The relationship between Kalena and Isaiah wasn't as long as I initially thought it was. In fact, all this happened in a span of a few weeks, maybe 6-8 weeks before she got pregnant. I also think that Isaiah didn't necessarily have to be a bad guy. He is a typical fifteen year old boy who isn't ready to be a father either. So he handled the situation by acting immature as well.

I don't know if Isaiah's mom had to be a villain either. Kalena seemed lazy and self-centered. This situation was probably difficult for all parties involved. I felt there was more going on there, and it wasn't voiced because we heard this story in Kalena's voice.

I appreciate the author tackling the subject of teenage pregnancy, but I would have liked more in-depth emotional scenes. There were a few "moody" sceces, but I didn't feel Kalena's despair. In fact, Kalena's actions always seemed reactionary. She would do things because someone said something to her, or made her feel a certain way. She didn't seem to have a strong backbone or a handle on her own goals and desires. I liked the ending as it is encouraging. Kalena started thinking about her future more and how she was going to take care of herself. She began making plans whereas before the pregnancy she was floating through life.

This novel was a good beginning for a discussion on a life-altering event. I hope that there is more dialogue on this subject matter.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Lexie Snyder on June 27, 2012 : star star star
Kalena is an ordinary teenager who gets pregnant. That is something that almost anyone reading can relate to, either through personal experience or through knowing someone who has gotten pregnant is high school. We might have vague memories of those people, but few of us have stopped to think about how their life changes. In this novel, Pierre shows just how dramatically someone’s life does change as they are forced to make hard decisions before they are ready. Childhood is quickly left behind, and they are thrust into an adult situation that no teenager is truly prepared to handle.
Once she realizes that she is pregnant, Kalena’s life changes completely. Both her parents and friends treat her completely different. Her parents are completely disappointed in her (which as an adult I can understand, because you realize the opportunities your child could possible miss due to a mistake she made). Her friends don’t know how to relate to her, and don’t understand where she fits into their circle, which basically she doesn’t. Her boyfriend Isaiah chooses denial, he wants to pretend everything is normal. However, Kalena doesn’t have that luxury as her life and body begin to transition into being a mother.
At this point, I realize I have just described MTV’s 16 & Pregnant, which yes I have seen twice. Only twice, I swear!! However, Before I Breathe evokes different emotions than that show. You see the confusion and pain in Kalena’s mind as her world is turned upside down. The disappointment her parents have, and the disappointment she as as she realizes that she’s no longer the same girl, with the same choices she was before she got pregnant.

The storyline supported themes of gaining second chances, learning from your mistakes and taking responsibility for your choices. These themes are something that every person can use in their life. The book was a fast read, but for my taste wasn’t truly entertaining. There isn’t any real suspense in the book, and there could have been some deeper character development. All in all, it wasn’t bad by any means. It causes your heart to clench in pain at times as you feel Kalena’s pain.

If this type of story is what you like, then I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s much more of a reflective book for us adults, and I doubt that most teenagers would choose to read it, just because they tend to be drawn to more action/suspense.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Jacquie Talento on June 25, 2012 : star star star star star
I received this story from a LibraryThing giveaway. What a cute story this was.
Kalena was a teenage girl going thru growing pains of life. We travel with her as she ends up making decisions that will affect her for the rest of her life. This book will show us that hard work and time pays off.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Kate F on June 10, 2012 : star star star star
Kalena is just an ordinary teenager until she gets pregnant. Once she realizes that she has a baby on the way, her life changes almost entirely. Her parents treat her differently, her friends don't want to hang out with her anymore, and she struggles to keep up with these new facts of life.

As Kalena makes her way through this new lifestyle, she struggles to figure out how to deal with all of the problems that her teenage pregnancy has caused -- her parents are disappointed in her, her boyfriend Isaiah never wants to talk about the pregnancy and seems to deny its existence, and her friends have decided that she doesn't fit in with their group anymore.

Besides relationship issues, Kalena struggles with normal things like figuring out what to wear as her body changes and her old clothes no longer fit, endless food cravings, and becoming weary and ready for a nap everyday by noon.

This novel is very realistic, and Kalena is very obviously still a teenager from the choices she makes. Her life changes so drastically, and in so many different ways, that she is an easy character to sympathize with. Parts of this novel are heartbreaking while others are endearing.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Pepper Owens on May 14, 2012 : star star star
3stars – a confusing cautionary tale

Kalena finds nothing worth her time at school until she takes another look at her Phys Ed teammate Isaiah. The harder her friends try to convince Kalena that Isaiah is the wrong guy for her the more determined Kalena is to continue their growing relationship. Kalena makes choices that change her life.

The characters were very middle of the road and didn’t evoke strong emotion either way for me. I also felt the plot veered sharply from one direction to another and the storyline was choppy. These led to a slightly confused message. The opening was revisited later in the book making the climax redundant – there was no mystery to the outcome. Yet half the book was devoted to building suspense to this point. The elements within the story supported second chances, learning from your mistakes and taking responsibility for your choices. They could really work for the audience, but in my opinion some things need to be switched to make the story flow better and keep the audience’s attention.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

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