Breathe by Sarah Crossan
What if an involuntary action became impossible? It’s something to think about. We breathe so often without giving the act a thought. Here, debut author Sarah Crossan immerses us in a world where a dome regulates Earth’s precious little remaining air. As a girl named Alina plants seeds in secret, hoping to bring back some of the oxygen supply outside of the dome, Bea and Quinn set off to spend a few days camping outside the dome. When the government comes after Alina for violating a law, Bea and Quinn help get her through the gates and into the earth outside the pod. Revelations and conspiracies abound, and we even get to meet a scene-stealing drifter along the way.
This concept feels fresh and original. With so many YA dystopian books on the shelves (both physical and digital) these days, many have the same general feel to them. This one does not. Crossan has created a believable future in which a pod that is believed to be mankind’s saving grace is really holding humanity back. The descriptions of air tanks and masks were interesting, as is the idea of solar-powered oxygen tanks. The love triangle concept is (THANKFULLY!) only entertained briefly before everyone in the trio of Bea, Quinn, and Alina realizes who they do and don’t love. The conspiracy seemingly behind everything works, but there is only one twist involved in this book (with a possible sequel on the way).
The dialogue in this book was very age-appropriate. Teenagers spoke as teenagers often speak in real life, and each character’s voice and personality were distinctive enough to warrant telling this story, in alternating chapters, from three teens’ perspectives. The character development is handled smoothly and is a joy to read. Some people gain confidence; others realize how inconsiderate and numb they’ve become. Then there’s Maude. An old drifter the trio finds outside the pod, she is sassy and vivacious despite her decrepit state. I really think she steals every scene she’s in.
While the headquarters of a secret resistance boasts a creatively beautiful feature which I won’t spoil here, and a battle rages between the government and the Resistance, it is clear this book is meant to set up its sequel. That being said, this book did have a full story arc, even if it is only Act One. I would enjoy reading a sequel to this story.
The pacing is done so well. While the book moves along quickly, it is not a product of breakneck pacing or large backstory dumps. I also expected Alina, Bea, and Quinn’s trek across the barren earth to be more boring than it was. Crossan came up with some nice ways of advancing plot and keeping the story interesting.
I recommend Breathe to fans of The Hunger Games and Michael Grant’s Gone series. While it is not nearly as dark as the Gone books, it is presented in a similarly serious manner. It is clear throughout that the future of the entire planet—and these teens’ lives—are at stake.
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