Saturday, January 11, 2014

REVIEW: BREATHE (Breathe, #1) by Sarah Crossan

Title: Breathe
Series: Breathe, #1
Author: Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Greenwillow
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Genres: YA, Dystopian
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 3/5


The world has no air. If you want to survive, you pay to breathe. But what if you can't? And what if you think everything could be different? Three teens will leave everything they know behind in Sarah Crossan's gripping and original dystopian teen novel of danger, longing, and glimmering hope that will appeal to fans of Patrick Ness and Veronica Roth.

Ever since the Switch, when the oxygen levels plummeted and most of humanity died, the survivors have been protected in glass domes full of manufactured air. Protected . . . or trapped? Or controlled? Alina's a revolutionary who believes we can save the environment. Quinn's a Premium who's never had to worry about having enough air. His best friend, Bea, is an Auxiliary who's never worried about anything but having enough air. When the three cross paths, they will change everything. Sarah Crossan's thrilling and provocative novel is about passion, about yearning for something better, and about breaking free for the very first time.


Breathe is divided into five parts:

Part One – The Pod
Part Two – The Outlands
Part Three – The Resistance
Part Four – The Battle
Part Five – The Ashes

At first I was hugely disappointed that Breathe follows the same overused formula as most other popular dystopian novels, and it didn’t seem as though it would be offering anything new. I’m saying “at first” because once I got past the first part of the story and started warming up towards the characters in the second part, by the time the third part came around I was completely hooked and had realized by then that Breathe, however similar it might seem to many other dystopian novels, do in fact offer some unique content.

The differences:

- Two female and one male protagonist. Two of them are auxiliaries from the impoverished zone of the Pod, and one is a premium from an affluent class of citizens.
- The concept: air is a luxury and citizens of the pod have to pay air taxes for the oxygen they breathe.
- Going camping means strapping on an air tank and spending a few days outside the pod in the “outlands”.
- Citizens (especially the auxiliaries) aren’t allowed to run, walk faster than three miles an hour, or grow plants or food; and they need a permit to carry heavy loads because they’ll be using more oxygen.
- The explanation for The Switch is original. For once the world didn’t end by way of disease, war, or some experiment gone wrong. But, at its core, the bottom-line theme of Breathe that motivates the characters to rebel is still the same as what you’ll find in any other dystopian novel – the need for freedom on their own terms.
- One good thing about this book is that it gets you thinking about conservation, and that as a topic for a dystopian novel deserves two thumbs up. I think a lot of us take oxygen for granted.
- Unlike many other dystopian novels in which the MC chooses to rebel, this one is somewhat different as to it being more a matter of Quinn and Bea unintentionally joining Alina on her journey to the RATS headquarters in The Grove, than it is about them having rebelled from the word go. 
- Despite there seeming to be a love-triangle in the first few chapters, Breathe isn’t as heavily romance-driven as many other popular dystopian novels, which is a relief. It has a story to tell and the romance is sweet, but thankfully not the main focus.
- It has boatloads of action and is low on insignificant details such as character backgrounds and other useless info, thus helping the story move along at a steady pace.

As I said before, it took me awhile to warm up to these characters. They seem rather bland at first, but a good ways in, once they’re in the Outlands, their personalities really start to shine. My number one favorite character is without a doubt Maude Blue. It’s hard to forget sharp-tongued crazy ol’ Maude Blue. She’s one of the secondary characters but one that makes an impact not only on the reader but also in the story. The rest of the characters – main and secondary – are all fully developed. The Pod Minister is evil incarnate, but he was also unbelievably annoying.

So much in this story simply defies logic, but I’ve come to realize that in these types of novels this is generally the trend. Logic doesn’t necessarily exist in dystopia. When it comes to world-building, Breathe unfortunately doesn’t offer anything new, but what it lacks in world-building, it makes up for with an exciting storyline. The world Sarah Crossen has created has the potential to be so much more. The ending was satisfactory and not so much a cliffhanger as it is an open ending on which to build the next book.

Final verdict: Breathe undoubtedly has a few miniscule flaws, but for me it didn’t take anything away from the story. I wouldn’t recommend you move it to the top of your reading list, but it certainly is worth the read. I’m planning on reading the next book in this series.


Breathe by Sarah Crossan has over 900 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.



Sarah Crossan is Irish. She graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Literature before training as an English and Drama teacher at Cambridge University and worked to promote creative writing in schools before leaving teaching to write full time.

She completed her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Warwick in 2003 and in 2010 received an Edward Albee Fellowship for writing.

She currently lives in NYC.

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