Author: Sarah Crossan
May Contain Spoilers
The premise of Breathe hooked me and made me what to read it. I am a huge fan of dystopian fiction, and though I have been disappointed by many of them lately, Breathe kept me completely engaged in the plot. That’s not to say that there weren’t any flaws, because there were quite a few, but I was so caught up in the story that I overlooked most of them. One that was hard to overlook was the personality reversal of Petra, the leader of the Resistance. When the chips were down, she went from being tough as nails to completely caving in and giving up. I don’t understand how she was the leader of this rebel group for so long, how she sent her people out on dangerous, life-threatening missions that lead to many of their deaths, when she couldn’t even find it in herself to fight back when she’s confronted with a war. Yes, the odds were so against her people that it didn’t look like they had a chance in Hell of winning, but just rolling over and giving up without a fight made me dislike her even more. How she ever became the leader of the resistance in the first place is beyond me.
When Bea and her best friend, Quinn, head out of the pod for a short camping trip, their plans are disrupted by Alina, a member of the Resistance, who is fleeing from the Ministry. Alina’s crime? She stole some plants. Yup, in this horrific vision of the future, all plant-life has been destroyed, the oceans have been polluted, and as a result, there isn’t enough oxygen left in the atmosphere to support life. The oppressive Breathe, the corporation that developed the pods and the life giving machines that fill them with breathable air, making a fortune selling air to the citizens of the pod. If you think having a gas meter or an electric meter is a pain, imagine having a monthly bill for the air you breathe. The poor struggle to make ends meet, while the wealthy have so much money they can splurge on personal air tanks so they can jog or play sports. Stewards patrol the streets, punishing those who walk too fast, or carry burdens without a permit. In the public areas of the pod, there are strict rules dictating how quickly you can move or what you can do because you are sucking up all of that valuable free air into your lungs. I love the concept behind this story!
After Bea and Quinn help Alina, their lives are thrown into chaos. Quinn’s father holds a high ranking position in Breathe, and as a Premium, there is little that Quinn has had to do without. Bea, on the other hand, has parents who are working themselves to death to pay for her air. As she attends school and works hard to be promoted, Bea is consumed with guilt. Her parents are always so tired, and always so worried about everything. When she fails to secure a spot in the Breathe Leadership Program, she is devastated. That was going to be her ticket to an easier life for her and her parents, and she blew it. So a trip outside, to the Outlands, sounds like just the thing she needs to clear her head and forget her disappointment. Quinn is providing everything she needs for the trip, so she might as well go and enjoy herself. And she is, until they run into Alina. Quinn, a very clueless, privileged young man, sees Alina, finds her beautiful, and immediately falls for her. He’ll do anything in his power to help her. Even hurt his best friend, Bea, who has loved him forever.
The love triangle did get a little annoying, because I didn’t think Quinn was worthy of Bea’s unyielding devotion, and Alina wasn’t my favorite character. While I thought that Quinn and Alina deserved each other, I didn’t want to see Bea hurt, because she is so kind. She is willing to risk herself for others, without hesitation. Neither Alina nor Quinn have her best interests at heart when they both have the power over her to keep her from harm. That was disappointing, because after everything that they had been through together, I expected better behavior from both of them. Plus, Bea would have put herself in harm’s way to protect both of them, and they didn’t deserve that.
The ending is one of those non-endings that seem inevitable in YA books, and it left me disappointed. I have been trying to resist starting new series until most of the books are out, but this was sitting on the library shelf, and despite a few reservations, I checked it out. Now. When I knew the next book won’t be out until later this year. Ugh. I am glad that I read it now, but I worry that I won’t be in the same frame of mind when Book 2 hits shelves.
If you are in the mood for a fast-paced dystopian with a compelling premise, give Breathe a try. I gobbled it up in a few short hours, and was engaged in the plot the entire time.
Review copy obtained from my local library