“In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the town of Broken Branch watches and waits.” I read these words from the summary of One Breath Away and knew I had to read the book.

Heather Gudenkauf details the saga through the voices of five characters. A student trapped in the school, a teacher in a classroom with the gunman, a policewoman on the case, and the mother and grandfather of the student trapped in the school.

Although it must be challenging for the author to do well, using five unique voices to reveal the story works here. We know only what each character knows, but each character enlightens us more and more to the plot. And speaking of plot, this one is great. With events in recent years, I think everyone’s heart must still a bit when news of a gunman in a school is announced. It’s a charged story, and one deep in emotions to explore.

In One Breath Away, Gudenkauf takes these emotions and creates a tense, suspenseful story. At times, I didn’t want to turn the page for fear of what might happen next, but at the same time, I couldn’t not turn the page because I just had to know what happened next.  That’s right. This is one of those books that I read in one day and started telling friends “you have to read this book.”

Just before the identity of the gunman was revealed, I  had figured out who it was.  That might bother some fans of suspense but I don’t think it took away from this story.  Gudenkauf had laid subtle clues throughout the story as to who it could be, and I think people who enjoy crime and suspense will enjoy this bit of reader detective work.

Gudenkauf also wraps up the story well, giving us what we need to know about characters I came to like and care about, while at the same time leaving just enough unanswered that fans can have  good discussions about what happened next for some of the characters.

Although author Heather Gudenkauf is already a New York Times bestselling author, this was my first time reading her. I will definitely be checking out her other books. I’m excited to read more by her.


I’m going my first ever giveaway, with a copy of  One Breath Away to a blog reader from the US or Canada. Leave a comment below, and a comment will be chosen at random to receive the copy of the book.  The giveaway is open to readers with a US or Canadian mailing address who leave a comment on this post between July 8 and July 21, 2012.


I received this book as a galley copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.