Released: October 11th 2012
My Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from? A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart. (from Goodreads)
The premise of Breathe was the main reason I was really excited to read the book – a world where oxygen was a commodity rather than an abundant element seemed like a great set-up for a dystopian story. I was rather impressed with the plot and the way Crossan managed to prevent the book from being preachy – the seriousness of what had happened to the environment was prevalent throughout, but I sort of expected it to come with a rant about global warming and human greed (think Maximum Ride 4 & 5 – I felt like I was being personally yelled at in those books for not taking better care of my surroundings!). Luckily Breathe wasn’t like that at all, and was more about the story and what was happening to the characters as they found out more about the sinister world they lived in.
Breathe was told in alternating chapters from three points of view. I was initially a little wary about this, but I think overall, the POV switches were done quite well. It was a little confusing at times, but I think having three different perspectives did add to the story because we go to see several places and characters within the same timeframe, which helped to explain what was happening. Alina, Bea and Quinn were all very different characters, and I think Alina was probably my favourite, though Bea did grow on me. Alina was part of the rebellion, working against the government who were trying to prevent the replanting of trees, and she lost someone dear to her very early on in the book, and was suffering with guilt and grief throughout. She was not used to relying on people and so didn’t want to work with Bea and Quinn to begin with, but as time went on, she gradually came to trust them. I would have liked to have known more about Alina and how she came to join the rebellion in the first place – some things were hinted at, but hopefully we’ll find out more about her past in the next book.
Bea was almost the opposite of Alina to begin with, and had always been the type to follow rules and orders without complaint. Her family were Auxiliaries and could barely afford enough air to live on, so Bea was determined to go far in life so she could help support her parents. She started off quite a passive character, but began to speak up more as the book went on, arguing with Quinn and Alina about things she disagreed with, and I liked this character development. She was also completely in love with Quinn, who was a Premium and rich enough to get more than enough oxygen whenever he wanted, but Quinn was the typical clueless best friend who had no idea about Bea’s feelings. I did feel for Bea, especially when Quinn started talking about his attraction to Alina (he wasn’t purposefully being tactless, but dear God, he was oblivious to other people’s feelings) – she tried to stay calm but she couldn’t help being upset. She felt like a coward for not telling Quinn about how she felt, but she was too afraid to ever tell him because it seemed he had never felt that way about her.
Quinn...I have no words. He really was just an idiot. I didn’t dislike him, per se, but it was really hard to like him when acted so stupidly and did his “poor little rich boy” act. The way he treated Bea at the beginning – the poor girl! He did become more likeable when he was separated from Bea and started to really worry and panic, and a certain event in the middle of the book gave him a huge shock that I think changed his way of thinking, which I think helped better his character. I liked him more towards the end, though I think his relationship with Bea was slightly rushed and I don’t know when exactly he started to like/realised he liked her – one minute Bea was just his friend and he was getting all googley-eyed over Alina, next minute, he and Bea were inseparable. I would have liked a bit more development there, but at least he stopped acting like a moron, I guess.
I really liked the setting and world-building in Breathe, and while it was a bit far-fetched, it didn’t seem too implausible that such a future may indeed come to pass. I could definitely imagine a huge corporation trying to capitalise on that tragedy as well, so I think it was written pretty well. My only concern about it, however, was the science used to explain things. It was....questionable. Some parts more than others – humans being able to breathe in air consisting of only 6% oxygen? Really? I mean, I guess it could be possible at some point, but not just through the training and exercises they did – for them to adjust so quickly – especially going from an environment of such higher oxygen levels...eh. I don’t know if I can believe that. I feel like they acclimatised way too fast for it to be realistic. But, it wasn’t the worst explanation I’d see (by a long shot, I’ve read some books where the science behind what was going on was actually just impossible) so I’m not too fussed about it. Some people may find this slightly annoying, but I think it can be overlooked if you’re willing to carry on reading for the story and character’s sake.
Overall, I enjoyed Breathe (my love for dystopian books continues!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in the sequel. Recommended to dystopian fans or those looking for a pretty unique setting/world.