By Emily Mead
Updated July 25, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Alas, Laura Rothenberg was wildly optimistic when she referred to herself, on the eve of her 19th birthday, as middle-aged. Diagnosed just after birth with cystic fibrosis, a chronic lung condition, she spent much of her life in the hospital. Her memoir is a remarkably clear-eyed (if jargon-ridden) account of her decision to undergo a high-risk double lung transplant at age 20. Unfortunately, the book covers much of the same ground as her well-regarded NPR diaries. Despite a crushing epilogue (Rothenberg died in March at age 22), Breathing fails to capture the intimacy and immediacy of her recorded voice.