Author: Sarah Crossan
Genre: YA, dystopian/apocalyptic
Publication Date: October 2, 2012 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: 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.
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?
☆: 3.5/5 stars – a great dystopian debut for Crossan!
Review: This is one of the more creative dystopians that has come out of YA this year, I’ll definitely give Crossan that. It’s also very plot-driven, but that’s usually not a problem when you have everything else in your technical arsenal to help back it up. While I feel like this one could have used another draft or two to smoothe out the final bumps and bits, I still really enjoyed “Breathe”, and am definitely looking forward to book two.
I had a lot of questions throughout this book that weren’t quite answered, and even by the end, seemed like they’d been ignored altogether – the biggest of which was, “so what exactly killed the world? Was it deforestation or plague or both?” We get hints to this answer, but not really a full, complete definition of what “killed the world”. There were a bunch of inconsistencies throughout the book (and not just regarding this question alone), but this one was the largest that kept bothering me. I had a very hard time believing that deforestation happened ALL OVER the world – we know already in our current time that it’s a huge problem in South America, for example, but we’re only given little snippets, that Europe might be okay…until we find out what Breathe has done there. It was pretty confusing and thus kind of lowered my enjoyment of the book a bit and was by far the thing that lowered my score of the book.
There characters were good – but I found that even though they did have small character arcs, I found the rate of change that should have been happening in terms of transformation of these characters was just too slow. It seemed like Crossan was really focused on the plot – and that’s okay. I just wanted more out of these characters in terms of how they were going to transform with all of the choices that they made. And I’m thankful they got individual character arcs at all – in so many plot-driven works, we see the complete nixing of all things character-based.
There was a bit of insta-love/a love triangle going on, but it seemed like Crossan actively avoided that by part three (of four) of the book. And that’s a good thing, because even though it was causing very much needed character-based tension, I liked the result when Crossan decided to fix things. It made everything a lot smoother and easier to read, and it generally satisfied me as it freed up the characters to focus on the plot stuff that was being thrown at them every which way. While there were some very hard to believe moments (a certain someone going over to the resistance’s side for good, for example) in terms of timing and within the pace of the book, I found Bea, Quinn, and Alina pretty sympathetic characters who were more or less easy to follow.
The worldbuilding was okay – not amazing, but not terrible either. For a debut, it sufficed. The world of the Pod was really well-rendered, but I could have used more on the Outlands. For example – where are we in the world? We have clues (we’re obviously not in Russia, we’re probably in London), but we don’t really have a solid answer. Hopefully this will be revealed and resolved in later books. In parts, it felt like the typical post-apocalyptic setting that we’ve gotten used to within the dystopian genre, and I wanted something a bit more original. The Grove was pretty great, but I wanted more on that, too.
Final verdict? While this is one of the more original dystopians out this year, Crossan still has a long way to go. And that’s okay. I love it when I can read authors’ work over time and see them actively improve in their writing through their characters and world. So I’m definitely in for book two. There are some deliciously horrific moments that I think readers will dig a lot (I know I did), so overall, this was definitely a pretty good debut for Crossan. “Breathe” is out October 2, 2012 from HarperTeen/Greenwillow in North America, so be sure to check it out then!