A book review for parents
This Christian suspense novel is the second book in "The Rayne Tour" series by Brandilyn and Amberly Collins and is published by Zondervan.
Last Breath is written for kids ages 13 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
16-year-old Shaley O'Conner wants to leave her chaotic daughter-of-a-rock-star life and to return to her home in Southern California. Unfortunately, the murders of two friends and arrest of another have kept her in Denver, along with her mother, Rayne. When a swarm of paparazzi push Rayne into the path of an oncoming car, she stays in a Denver hospital to recover. Shaley remains with her mother and learns the real story about her father, Gary Donovan. Rayne and Gary fell passionately in love in French class. Twice a month, he even sent Rayne a white rose as a declaration of his love. Before long, Rayne found he was involved with a dangerous California gang called Westrock — assisting in drug runs and a slew of other illegal activities because the gang threatened his grandmother, who raised him. Eventually, Gary burned down his grandmother's house and fled the state with his grandmother, but by that time, Rayne was pregnant.
Shaley tells her mother about the white rose with the mysterious message she received only days before. They enlist the help of the police and discover Gary has been released from prison where he served a sentence for armed robbery. They also learn that his cellmate was none other than Jerry Brand, the man who was originally sent to protect Shaley and ended up murdering two of her closest friends. Living under the alias Franklin Borden, they find that Gary has purchased a plane ticket and is on his way to Denver. They are startled at the news and beef up the patrols around Rayne's room. Gary remembers Shaley's cell phone number from a conversation with Jerry, and he calls her from an empty hospital room. After Shaley realizes where he is, she informs police. A standoff ensues, but Shaley intervenes on his behalf after he persuades her that his intentions are honorable. Gary and Rayne are reunited in the hospital room, and Shaley is glad to have finally met her father.
Shaley and Rayne are not believers, but Shaley's encounter with death has left her reeling. She repeatedly pleads with God for help and clings to the words spoken to her by Carly Sanders, a back-up singer who is a Christian: "Remember. God is always watching." Shaley also demonstrates the power of forgiveness when she encounters her father for the first time and gives him the chance to redeem his past mistakes.
Rayne takes a brave stand when she defends her daughter from the paparazzi, nearly losing her life in the process. As a result, Shaley has a renewed respect for her mother. Though young Gary's parents are deceased, his grandmother raises him. He honors and protects her. When Shaley finally meets Gary, he turns out not to be a criminal, but a broken man who wants only forgiveness and a fresh start.
Other Belief Systems
There is mention of cursing, but profane language is not used. In the third chapter, Rayne is hit by a car and is severely injured. As a teenager, Gary is inadvertently involved with a violent gang; the events come to fruition after a drug drop ends in a shootout between rival gang members. After failing to complete the task, Gary is beaten severely. On the same night, Rayne receives phone calls threatening her life. Gary burns down his grandmother's house in the middle of the night, but only as a last attempt to save those whom he loves. In the hospital, the police confront Gary. They use guns and physical tactics to subdue him.
Gary and Rayne share a kiss after their first date. It is inferred that they sleep together because 17-year-old Rayne becomes pregnant.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- How does Rayne show her love for her daughter?
How do Rayne's actions impact Shaley and her relationship with her mother?
How does God show us the same kind of love?
- Why does Gary go along with the demands of the Westrock Gang?
Are his motives honorable?
How does his decision affect his grandmother?
How does his decision affect Rayne?
What would you have done in his place?
Have you ever had to make a difficult choice to protect someone you loved?
- Why does Gary decide to leave Rayne behind?
Do you agree with his choice? Why or why not?
How does God turn the situation around for good?
- What causes Shaley to go to God for help?
Why do you think we most often go to God in times of trouble?
How often does God's Word say we should pray?
Why do you think God wants us to talk to Him in all circumstances?
How have you experienced the power of prayer in your own life?
- How does Shaley confront her father?
What makes her trust him?
How has he changed?
What does God say about forgiving others?
What causes Shaley to forgive or not forgive her father?
Who have you had to forgive?
How did forgiveness change your attitude?
Note: Last Breath
makes minor references to gang warfare and illegal drug use. One of Rayne's band members has a tattoo and several are mentioned as having piercings.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.