Sunday, December 2, 2012

Friday(-ish) Forward: BREATHE, by Sarah Crossan

So, last month my bookclub read BREATHE by Sarah Crossan. We liked it! Here's the blurb from amazon:

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

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.

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.

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?

I found the concept behind this book really intriguing. And in today's political climate that sees several world leaders treating water as a commodity, it's not that far off, either. In the world of Breathe, someone is always watching. Oxygenated air is something that has to be bought, and it leaves people sick and struggling to survive. That said, this is where the parallels to that aspect of the real world end. While Bea and her family of "subs" do struggle to pay for the air they breathe, they still have modern commodities like showers and electricity. Bea goes to school with other kids from all tiers of society. Her best friend is a Premium. And while I found the social system disturbing, it still felt a lot like "First World Problems." This is not A LONG WALK TO WATER (which you should definitely go read, by the way).

Nor should it be. Despite its post-apocalyptic setting, this is not really a book about socioeconomics. It is a book about three teenagers and the decisions they make. It's about being faced with impossible choices and horrible truths, and growing up in the face of them. And in that respect, this book shines. Though I found myself repeatedly flipping back to check who was speaking during Bea and Alina's chapters, Quinn was a unique and very believable character, and I couldn't help empathizing with him, spoiled and clueless though he was. But the real strong point in this book is the cast of secondary characters. From the innocently obsessed Jazz, to the mysterious Maude Blue, to the freakishly bipolar resistance leader Petra, the people who populate this world are richly imagined and extremely well-fleshed-out. When I finished this book, I was left desperate to find out more about these people, and eagerly awaiting their appearances in its sequel.

BREATHE is not without its issues. The science behind the lack of oxygen, and the way Breathe controls the oxygen in the population living within the pod, could be really solid. But because there aren't enough details to satisfy my scientifically curious mind, it felt flimsy. With all that rain and all that carbon dioxide floating around, there's no way the employees of Breathe would have been able to zap every bit of plant matter for hundreds of miles. And what about other countries? Who runs their pods? How did those governments handle the drop in Oxygen? It is implied that every country responded the same way, but I just don't buy it. I felt like this book could really use an appendix to explain the science, a la AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green (which you should also read), as well as more bigger-picture world building within the text itself. Additionally, even though the cover is intriguing, because it depicts a world so different from the world actually in the book, I felt that it really did the book a disservice. Every time they found a patch of moss or ivy growing on the outside, and especially when they were walking around in the city, I flipped back to the total wasteland depicted on the cover and shook my head. This is a big pet peeve for me - it's one thing to show something intriguing and metaphorical on the cover (like the infamous TWILIGHT apple), but it's another thing to show a scene differently from the way it actually happens in the book.

That said, I still enjoyed reading BREATHE. This book is carried by its supporting cast, and they. Are. AWESOME. I can't wait to see more of them in the sequel. BREATHE is out now, and can be found in most bookstores, or online at IndieBound here, at Amazon here, and for Canadian shoppers, at Chapters Indigo here.

Happy Reading!


  1. It sounds great, Ishta. Have you read Inside Out? It sounds just as futuristic and out there.

  2. It sounds great, Ishta. Have you read Inside Out? It sounds just as futuristic and out there.