Author: Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Published: Oct 11, 2012
Buy: The Book Depository
Oxygen is essential for most living things. For 2.5 billion years, it was the most abundant chemical element on Earth.
Until the Switch.
In Sarah Crossan’s latest novel, breathing freely and comfortably is easier said than done. Here, oxygen is hard to come by. Set in a futuristic and plant-deprived world, the characters in Breathe have no choice but to remain within the protection of the Pod, where the air is breathable and clean. Oxygen tanks can be purchased by the wealthiest of Pod citizens – typically those in Zone One – for venturing out into the wilderness on day trips and partaking in strenuous activities such as exercise. For the remaining population, for people like Bea, oxygen is too expensive for daily pleasures and breathing must be carefully controlled. When the opportunity arises for Bea to go camping outside with her best friend Quinn, she doesn’t let it pass. What she wants is to spend some time alone with Quinn, hoping that he will finally notice her. What she gets is a run-in with a Resistance member and a sudden detour into the dangerous and unknown.
It should be said that this is very much a plot-driven novel. With three different points of view to warm to (from Bea, Quinn and Alina), the characters are not immediately easy to connect with. There are better developments in the story than there are in the characters. Despite the rocky start, the three main protagonists do eventually become easier to appreciate and my opinion of them changed by the end of the book for a more positive stance, even if I wasn’t completely in love with them. Alina is a fiery and strong character, Bea a compassionate girl and Quinn very much a boyish boy. The hints of a love triangle linger between them, but nothing too extreme or worthy of frustration.
The strength of this book lies in its gripping story line. Sarah Crossan has come up with an interesting concept and her oxygen-depleted world was chillingly real. My chest constricted with the feeling of suffocation every time the characters’ did and my focus on breathing suddenly sky-rocketed. It’s funny how something so vital is never given a second thought during our lives. It was thrilling (and terrifying) to be able to experience the harsh consequences of a damaged world through Crossan’s words. Even with my initial lack of enthusiasm for the characters, every chapter held my attention and the plot unravelled in ways I wanted it to. While the pacing suffered occasionally, this is not a story that failed to impress.
Admittedly, I entered Breathe with low expectations after having read a flurry of negative reviews. Perhaps this suited me for the better in the end as Breathe proved to be a pleasant surprise. I hope the sequel will be just as engaging, and ideally, any remaining character issues are ironed out then. This was definitely a promising start to a new dystopian trilogy.
Rating: 3.5 stars