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Reviewed by Sana Sharma
Opening sentence
A heartfelt story about young love, reviewed by Sana Sharma
July 26, 2022

Invisibly Breathing by Eileen Merriman is a loving book about unconventional love and bullying.

The story begins with Felix taking a thousand steps on the way to school in Lower Hutt. He’s thinking about his favourite number when bullies stop him in his path and ruin his count, making him late for school. There he meets Bailey, a boy who gets mocked for having a stutter as he tries to answer a math question, simple - in Felix’s eyes.

Felix Catalan is a sixteen-year-old boy who is socially awkward and known as ‘freak-out Felix’ or ‘crazy Catalan’ due to his anxiety attacks at school. He is a very intelligent person who is always reciting certain number patterns as a calming action. Felix’s favourite number is five, a Catalan number - which is also his last name, and five is the third Sophie Germain prime number too.

Bailey Hunter is a boy who previously lived in Auckland but has recently moved to Lower Hutt, and into Felix’s school and life. Bailey is a very kind person and gets along quite well with a lot of people in his classes, he plays basketball and is a brown belt in judo, his main passion. But there’s one problem, his father is an abusive alcoholic who drinks too much.

The two main characters in this book face many challenges, actually, this whole book is a challenge. Many people, including Bailey’s father, do not approve of gay people and as Felix and Bailey start to get closer, things seem to be getting harder. Things at school start getting quite hard for Felix after a humiliating video on Facebook, but for Bailey, it’s a much more personal hit home.

This book is written in a pretty casual, easy-to-read sense. I’ll admit when I read the first page in the holidays I was like ‘not more math!’ but when I flipped the page and went into their world, I was instantly drawn in and dared to see how their loving tale was so true and heartfelt.

If the author aimed to create a daring book portraying bullying and different love in the modern world, relating it to us all she definitely achieved it. It was quite easy to follow the storyline and was quite enjoyable too.

Finally, I’d like to recommend this book to older readers as the context is a little advanced. But really to the people who are willing to breathe invisibly.

Sana is 13 and lives in Hamilton.
Author & Illustrator: Eileen Merriman