________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 8 . . . . October 24, 2014


Breathing Fire. (Orca Soundings).

Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
133 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0565-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0566-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0567-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0568-2 (epub).

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Amy Trepanier.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



He's juggling the two torches over and under one leg. Even from close up, it looks like the orange flames are licking the hem of his shorts.

"Now!" He throws both torches up high, and I toss him another. He catches it lightly, and the audience claps as he incorporates it into a smooth juggle. Tate rewards me with another wink.

I can't help but show off a bit. I toss the remaining torch up, like the clubs in gymnastics. It's really the same thing. Only on fire.

It twirls and arcs in the night sky like a crazy star. The balance is good. I give a little spin and catch it behind my back.

The crowd ooohs, and I see him falter, almost miss a beat on the last torch, as he watches me. My skin burns with his gaze.

While Ally always sensed that her mother would die young, nothing could have prepared her to be orphaned by her mother's decision to step into the path of an oncoming bus. Adapting to her new life in foster care gives Ally time to process her feelings about her troubled upbringing with her pill-addicted mother.

      Just as Ally begins to settle into her new life as a foster child, her world is once again upended when she meets Tate, a charismatic street artist. A vagabond and thrill-seeker at heart, Tate teaches Ally the art of fire-breathing as they embark on a whirlwind romance. The couple begin performing together, making a living and a life on the street.

      When Ally learns that Tate plans to hit the road to perform his act at festivals, she takes a leap of faith and purchases a bus ticket. Upon discovering her plans to follow him, the nomadic artist ends the relationship. In a moment of impulsive anger, Ally makes off with Tate's performance equipment and hurtles headlong into life on the streets. She soon finds herself adopted by a group of older, more advanced street performers and eventually finds herself face-to-face with the elusive (and now very angry) Tate, once again.

      Ally manages to rebuild her decimated friendship with Tate by compensating him for his lost earnings and returning his performance equipment. The story ends happily with two of Ally's older fellow street performers agreeing to undertake necessary steps to foster Ally, helping her get her life back on track.

      The fast-paced plot of Breathing Fire will appeal to reluctant teen readers with short attention spans. The author deals with such sensitive subject matter as addiction, death, sex, and poverty from a relatable, first-person perspective.


Amy Trepanier is the Teen Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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