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About the book
  • Published: 5 March 2019
  • ISBN: 9780143772859
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $15.99

Invisibly Breathing




A moving story about unconventional love, bullying and being true to yourself.

‘I wish I wasn’t the weirdest sixteen-year-old guy in the universe.’

Felix would love to have been a number. Numbers have superpowers and they’re safe – any problem they might throw up can be solved.

'If I were a five, I’d be shaped like a pentagon … there’d be magic in my walls, safety in my angles.'

People are so much harder to cope with. At least that’s how it seems until Bailey Hunter arrives at school. Bailey has a stutter, but he can make friends and he’s good at judo. And Bailey seems to have noticed Felix:

‘Felix keeps to himself mostly, but there’s something about him that keeps drawing me in.’

Both boys find they’re living in a world where they can’t trust anyone, but might they be able to trust each other, with their secrets, their differences, themselves?

  • Pub date: 5 March 2019
  • ISBN: 9780143772859
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $15.99

About the Author

Eileen Merriman

Eileen Merriman’s three young adult novels, Pieces of You, Catch Me When You Fall, and Invisibly Breathing, were finalists in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2018 and 2019, and both Pieces of You and Catch Me When You Fall are Storylines Notable Books. Her first adult novel, Moonlight Sonata, was released in July 2019, with reviewers calling it ‘skilfully crafted’, and a ‘carefully layered and thoughtful drama, with beautifully observed and believable Kiwi characters’.

Her other awards include runner-up in the 2018 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award, third for three consecutive years in the 2014-2016 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards, second in the 2015 Bath Flash Fiction Award, commended in the 2015 Bath Short Story Competition, and first place in the 2015 Graeme Lay Short Story Competition. She works full-time as a consultant haematologist at North Shore Hospital.

Also by Eileen Merriman

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Praise for Invisibly Breathing

“Author Eileen Merriman has created characters and situations which numerous young people can easily connect with. It makes this more than just a book to be read, but gripping literature which both celebrates love and also exposes society’s harmful behaviour towards love that is not considered ‘conventional’. As a reader, this made for a read that was both refreshing and thought-provoking. Rating 5/5 stars”

Faga Tuigamala, Tearaway

“Eileen Merriman is at the top of her game as a writer. Her descriptive prose is a delight and the dialogue between the characters is totally believable. She deals with a sensitive subject with aplomb and knowledge. I couldn't put it down and nor will you. Definitely senior fiction but anybody out there agonising over their sexuality be assured this is the book for you.”

BobsBooksBlog

“The novel tackles homosexuality and bullying – both at school and at home – and Merriman doesn’t shy away from the topics. They are handled professionally and realistically while also coming to a gritty end. The story itself cracks along at a smart pace, and the plot kept me turning pages. The story sucked me in and it was difficult reading the final quarter of the book because of the abuse. In saying that, the ending was a wonderful salve and was expertly handled by Merriman. It is, again, both realistic without being too clinical. Invisibly Breathing is an intensely moving story about unconventional love, bullying, and being true to yourself. It’s an important message for our youth to hear and I have no doubt it will be of immense help to some readers. For those not directly experiencing a life like Felix or Bailey, Merriman offers reassurance and understanding. Merriman is a formidable writer and her stories are an important addition to New Zealand young adult bookshelves.”

Rebekah Fraser, NZ Booklovers

“Eileen Merriman becomes a more skilful and confident storyteller with each novel. Invisibly Breathing (2019), her third young adult novel, introduces two completely convincing young men. The dialogue is crisp and convincing and their characters are well drawn. . . . Merriman has written a sympathetic account of the growing attraction between the two young men, but she has also created a plausible range of characters around them, so the reader can understand the tragic events which follow Felix and Bailey’s realisation that they are in love. Invisibly Breathing is a gripping account of two young men on the brink of manhood, uncertain and deeply involved emotionally, facing the reactions of their family and friends. It is also a story about infinity, prime numbers, text messages, prejudice, breathing, Facebook, acceptance and anagrams. It is a moving story, well told.”

Trevor Agnew, Magpies

“How on Earth is Eileen Merriman writing a book a year and making each one better than the previous one?! This tale of two troubled 16-year-olds finding in each other an oasis from everyday chaos is extremely well-executed. The story is told in alternating voices, and it is smoothly done – you never lose sense of time passing. In fact, it is so well done I ignored my family and finished it in a matter of hours. . . . Is Bailey the first bisexual person in New Zealand mainstream YA? I think this may be the case. How ridiculous is that – and how awesome is Merriman for changing it. . . . I think, as with her other two books, the emotional truth is what really pulls the reader in. . . . Merriman has a knack for keeping those pages turning, with short, snappy sentences and perfectly pitched chapter endings. The ending is fast-paced and explosive – and very satisfying. I recommend this for any teen who enjoys contemporary love stories, and books set in their own reality.”

Sarah Foster, The Sapling

“Bullying, homophobia and being an outsider - Merriman tackles plenty of tough topics in this moving and delicate novel. . . . Merriman's refreshing and modern take on romance is exactly where YA literature needs to be in 2019. Combine modern romance with topics such as bullying and belonging, add in a distinct New Zealand flavour, and this book is a winner. . . . Invisibly Breathing handles its tough topics with sensitivity and sophistication, and Merriman's writing is brave and fierce when it comes to dealing with difficult ideas in our society. . . . the calibre of Merriman's writing is simply one of the best in New Zealand's YA scene, and she knows how to keep readers hooked. . . . Merriman writes what teenagers want to read, and she certainly knows how to write it well.”

Hannah Marshall, aged 16, NZ Books

“Merriman explores themes of isolation, self-awareness, poverty, family violence and the tender joy of first love with a sure hand. Nothing preachy, just real, bitter-sweet life. . . . Merriman is a master at creating an authentic sense of voice, making Felix and Bailey compelling and engaging protagonists. I believed every word on every page and could not put the book down, devouring it in two days. I *achy groan* loved Invisibly Breathing.”

Rachael Craw, KidsBooksNZ

“The developing relationship between the two young men and their desire to be accepted by society, is the main focus of the book and is explored in a sensitive, straightforward manner. However, the relationships within their respective families remind us that while non-conventional relationships may be challenging in many ways, conventional relationships also have their pitfalls and the ability to turn sour. Highly recommended for young adults.”

Anabel McPhee, NZ Book Council

“Eileen Merriman's powerful third novel has an orthodox quality, too, though in her case it's the orthodoxy of super-real, super-current fiction. . . . Alternating between the two boys' voices, Invisibly Breathing outlines a sympathy that deepens into friendship, then affection, then mutual attraction. It deftly renders the wonder and fear of Felix and Bailey as they joyously, fearfully, comprehend the trajectory they're on. . . . It's a clever book. Ingenious chapter headings, smart sentences, inventive glides of plot and relationships. It's very contemporary, veined with phones and txts and Twitter and Grand Theft Auto V. There's a stadium-sized cast of kids, and Merriman gets their blitheness, erratic fuses, invulnerability-cum-fragility spot-on. . . her book is bloody good.”

David Hill, NZ Books

“Best of 2019: I really like reading her because the relationship between the two boys as they fall in love is really incredibly poetic . . . it's really, really beautiful . . . the language is beautiful and quite stunning.”

Anna Daniell, Radio NZ


Awards & Recognition

  • New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

    Shortlisted • 2019 • Book Awards for Children and YA

  • Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Award

    Shortlisted • 2019 • Book Awards for Children and YA

  • Storylines Notable Book Award

    Awarded • 2020 • Storylines Notable Book


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