Friday, October 5, 2012

Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan
Rating: ★★★★

Inhale. Exhale.
Breathe.
Breathe.
Breathe . . .
The world is dead.
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen–rich air.


Alina
has been stealing for a long time. She's a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she's never been caught before. If she's careful, it'll be easy. If she's careful.


Quinn
should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it's also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn't every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her.


Bea
wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they'd planned a trip together, the two of them, and she'd hoped he'd discover her out here, not another girl.

And as they walk into the Outlands with two days' worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?


This book has a fascinating concept. In this post-apocalyptic world, oxygen is a limited resource, doled out according to wealth. It’s a commodity that can be bought, and the poor have to make do with very little.

I found the set up very interesting, and I like the construction of the pod. It felt imaginative and unique. It wasn’t a regurgitation of any other dystopian YA that I’d read.

The best part of this book, by far, was the science fiction aspect. I love reading about what the world had turned into. How the depletion of oxygen in the atmosphere affected the way things worked. It was well thought out and truly devastating.  The complex morals work well, like how the characters never truly know what’s the right thing to do, and which side is right.

This is a book that massively improves as it goes along. I found it slow in the beginning, but once it hit its stride it sucked me in. The end is big and climactic and heartbreaking, everything you want in this kind of book. 


It’s another one with multiple POVs. Alina, the beautiful, brave, ruthless Resistance fighter, Bea, the moral lower-class girl suffering from unrequited love, and Quinn, the rich, oblivious, but well-meaning object of her affection.

I really get engaged in the story once Bea’s narrative starts- you’re invested in her, she suffers the most and you root for her. She’s not particularly plucky, which can be a problem sometimes with protagonists, but in dystopian YA I actually find that slightly refreshing. She’s compassionate and her emotions feel the deepest of all the narrators. She’s got a spine when she needs it and she’s very moral, which I also found refreshing. She becomes bigger than herself by the end. Full of fire.

Quinn can be a stereotypical oblivious boy, but I like that he wasn’t idealized, and he could be funny. I love how Quinn’s eyes get opened to the reality of his world. I love how he grows and hardens into someone worth admiring.

Alina, while she gives us the  most information about this oxygen-less planet, is probably the hardest to get a feel for of the three narrators, despite the fact that she’s the warrior Resistance fighter.   But her character really opens up as well. By the latter half I warmed to her, just as she warmed up in general

None of the characters are overly brimming with personality (apart from possibly Quinn, who is the most flawed,). The romance- touted as a love triangle- is not precisely that, and feels a little anemic, though it does hit all the right notes.  And I wanted Bea to be happiest most of all.

There isn’t much difference between the three voices (again, with the exception of Quinn, at times) though they did not all have the same personality. I liked watching them interact and play off one another. Maude, naturally, is the most fun, and really livens up the book when she appears.

 At first the dynamics of the dystopian world are a little confusing. I appreciate the author’s decision not to set aside ten pages dedicated only to explaining how things work and why things are this way, but I actually would have appreciated a bit more explication. Maybe I was just having a slow day, but I had difficulty grasping the world right away, which is pretty key in dystopian fiction. As the story went on, though, it became clearer, and then it becomes fascinating. And the ball gets rolling so fast you cling on with your fingernails.

BREATHE is a quick read that picks up its pace about halfway through, which is when I most got into it. I did enjoy it, particularly the latter half. It’s well-written, unique, and interesting.  The characters improve a lot. This is a book that I ended up loving, though I didn’t start out that way. But sticking with it was worth it. I will read the sequel, because I greatly enjoyed the plot of this book, and hope that I’ll just get to know the characters better.

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