Exclusive: Read an excerpt of Rocky Callen’s A Breath Too Late

A Breath too Late by Rocky Callen. Image Courtesy Macmillan Publishers
A Breath too Late by Rocky Callen. Image Courtesy Macmillan Publishers /

Rocky Callen’s YA contemporary debut, A Breath Too Late, hits shelves later this April – but we’ve got an exclusive early look at this emotional novel right now.

Let’s face it, we’ve all got a little more time to spend with our TBR lists these days. Maybe not in the way we wanted, exactly, but we’re all definitely looking for new stories to dig into at the moment.

New author Rocky Callen’s contemporary YA debut, entitled A Breath Too Late, is  a heartrending story that will stick with you, featuring a delicate and nuanced look at depression, suicide and mental health. It’s inspired by the author’s own years of grappling with domestic abuse in her household and growing up with depression, as well as her experience as a behavioral therapist for over a decade.

A Breath Too Late follows the story of seventeen year-old Ellie, who finds herself forced to retrace the events that unfolded prior to her suicide after her death. Yet, the story is not presented as an exploitative retelling, but rather a nuanced exploration of events that doesn’t sensationalize or ignore the painful truth of what took place.

New York Times bestselling author Alison McGhee calls this novel, which jumps across time andincorporates a highly original epistolary-like narrative style, “achingly poignant … a love letter and a life raft to the brokenhearted.”

A Breath Too Late will be released this month, but we’ve got an exclusive excerpt of the novel for you to check out right now. Enjoy!

Read an excerpt from Chapter 7 of A Breath Too Late below. 

"Father,I am staring out the window,  watching you get out of your car. You pause for a second and look toward the street. I am a cannon and I want to blast right through you. Momma’s in the bathroom and I am heading to our front door. The same doorway where I saw you for the first time all those years ago. I remember . . .You hadn’t always been cruel. That’s what Momma told me once. That’s what I vaguely remember from before the belts and whiskey bottles. Everything about the outside of you has stayed the same. The same wiry, strong build and flexing forearms, the same dark hair with shocks of gray, the same hooded eyes with crow’s feet wrinkles that imply you smile often. You do, but most of those smiles are lies. The outside of you looks like the same man who stood on our porch all those years ago.But it is your insides that have changed. They twisted up in your gut when no one was watching. Your voice sounds rough and low, but there was a time when I wasn’t afraid of it. When I thought it sounded like a lullaby. You never sang, but the sound of it, the roll of it, lulled me to sleep.When Momma held my hand so tight that it hurt as  we walked up the driveway, you looked at us with eyes that made me think of a lost puppy we had found on the side of the road when we first moved into the row house on Sunset. It even had slick black fur and white patches. I wanted to keep it. Momma pulled over. It was raining and one of our windshield wipers wasn’t working right so it was hard to see. She got out, took off her jacket, and wrapped up the little pup in it and then handed him to me to snuggle. He was small. So was I, and he didn’t quite fit in my arms, but he nuzzled my neck and licked me. It tickled and we brought him home and I was laughing and coming up with names as we drove.We had him for months. He peed on the floor. He  chewed on Momma’s shoes. He barked at squirrels. He was loud and messy and I loved him. But then one day, I had my arm dangling over the bed and when I heard his paws scratch on the hardwood, I smiled and smothered my face in a pillow. I knew he’d come and lick my fingertips like he usually did, but that day something was different.He growled.I started lifting my head from my pillow, eyebrows  raised, but before I could say his name, he charged and clamped his jaw down on my forearm. The teeth dug in and a moment of shock gave way to pain as I tried to shake him off. He didn’t let go. He was saliva and teeth and growls, and I screamed.Momma yelled my name and I heard her frantic foot- steps up the stairs. I begged him to let go, I tugged and pulled my arm, but it just made the pain worse. Momma lunged for us and she pried the dog’s jaw open and I snatched my arm away the second it was loose. Momma wrestled with the dog until she could shove him outside and close the door. He growled at the door and barked through the wood.“It hurts! It hurts!” I cried as Momma gathered me in her arms. Blood was everywhere. On my shirt. On my sheets. She scooped me up and then ran for the door. The dog kept barking and seemed poised to nip at her feet. We were out of the house. In the car. And on our way to the hospital. It was the first hospital visit I remember. It was the only hospital visit we didn’t lie at during the intake.No, this was before you. So there were no mysterious falls. Or bumped foreheads. Or accidents. Which were really all code for Father Hurt Us Again. This time it was just us and a dog’s bite. I got ten stitches and when we came home, the growling mess of a dog, the dog I still loved even though it hurt me, was sent to a no-kill shelter.When I looked at you standing on our front porch, I saw those sad-puppy eyes that I had snuggled on a car ride. You looked at Momma as if you could hardly believe she was real. You looked at me the same way. And you knelt down to cup my cheeks in your hands and told me that I was beauti- ful just like her, but even while you said it, you looked sad.I still wanted to keep you.I didn’t know then that you’d bite too."

dark. Next. Zan Romanoff’s Look explores identity in the digital age

A Breath Too Late hits shelves on April 28. Will you be giving it a look?