by Sarah Crossan

Genre: YA Dystopian
Published: October 2nd, 2012
by Greenwillow




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?


Oxygen is essential for most living things.
For 2.5 billion years, it was the most abundant chemical on Earth.
Until the Switch.

Imagine living in a world where the only way to get air is to buy it under extremely high prices; a world where air is so limited that only the upper class citizens have the luxury of having even slightly more than needed to survive. Because of this, citizens really have no choice but to live under a “dome” called the Pod, where air is more or less breathable and clean.

In a nutshell, our story follows three very different and very unique characters as their stories intertwine in the unlikeliest of circumstances, where friendships form, romance blossoms, and the world as they know it turns out to be much more flawed than they anticipated.

How they meet and the secrets they unravel because of it all make for a unique and fascinating novel, and it’s only a matter of time before Quinn, Bea and Alina realize there’s more to their government than they realize.

Without a doubt, Breathe has a fascinating premise. I, personally, jumped into the story – anxious to know what happened next. But was it original? Not quite, I suppose. Sure, it had some intriguing plot twists and genre defiance here and there, but, overall, everything seemed pretty standard YA-dystopian to me. Not that that’s a bad thing, I just am always looking for originality in stories, and I’m afraid I didn’t find any in Breathe.

Now, according to my “Standard YA Dystopian” checklist, here are some similarities that I found between Breathe and some of the other dystopians being published at the time:

☑ A love triangle
☑ A peaceful, helpful government that is eventually unmasked as a dystopian government
☑ A government that claims something happened when it actually didn’t – just to keep the people under rule
☑ A protagonist that needs to save their family
☑ A kick-butt protagonist
☑ A Mary Sue character
☑ An “I can’t be with you because the government will tear us apart” romance
☑ A rebellion

For me, characters are the hearts and souls of novels. They make books really worth reading. There comes a point when sometimes a character just feels so real to you that you wonder if it’s someone snatched up from a real life situation. The joy that you get when your protagonist triumphs, the anguish you feel when they’re upset…it’s all what makes reading worthwhile.

I never was able to truly feel for the characters in Breathe. They felt so shallow, so unrealistic to me, and I constantly found myself struggling to understand their motives and their ways of thinking. Each character clashed together in my mind, and, in all honesty, they were almost hard to distinguish. This was disappointing, as I was hoping the characters would save the story from being even more average. However, there is nothing that really sticks out about the characters in Breathe enough to call them “special.”

They weren’t quite one dimensional characters, but they certainly weren’t three dimensional either. And I think this is truly what made Breathe such a “meh” read for me.

All in all, Sarah Crossan’s debut novel is a fine addition to the dystopian genre. Is it my personal favorite dystopian novel? No, not by a longshot, but it was entertaining and fulfilling nonetheless, and I’ll grant it that.


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