Book: Breathe (Book 1 of 2)
Author: Sarah Crossan
This is a book that a friend recommended to me and I wasn’t entirely sure about it-the concept of a world without trees so everyone is entirely reliant on the government to provide their air for them. I’d never heard of it so I wasn’t sure if it was going to be any good or not but I’m always willing to try new books and I love dystopian fiction so I thought I’d give this book a go. The concept was something that seemed completely new to me-I’ve never read any books like this before. One thing that I didn’t realise until later in the book because I didn’t feel that Crossan made it very clear is that the book is actually set in England-which I thought was really cool because most dystopian novels are set in America. The book did have some of the characteristic features of a dystopian novel-a love triangle (although it’s between 2 girls and a boy which makes it slightly different) and of course the character who is rebelling against the government as usual has to be a girl. Here’s a synopsis of the book:
Years after The Switch, The Pod has moved on. A poor auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime are labelled as terrorists and are ejected from the Pod to die.
Sixteen year old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, who or what are they protecting the trees from?
The concept of the book was interesting but I felt that the story dragged a little at times-the beginning part of the novel was a little boring, it picked up in the middle and got really exciting towards the end-the book is split into five parts and the part four is particularly exciting with lots of action scenes. I didn’t feel like The Switch was fully explained and I didn’t exactly understand why they got rid of all the trees-this version of the future seemed a little unrealistic to me as we know that we need trees for oxygen to live. The idea of everyone living inside a dome and some people being outside seemed a little too close to Julianna Baggott’s Pure to me.
The book revolves around three teenagers, Bea Whitcraft, Quinn Caffrey and Alina Moon in their shifting perspectives which I quite liked as we got to see what each character thought at different points in the novel. I don’t know whether I can say that I really fell in love with any of the characters, Bea seemed a little weak to me to start off with, but I liked her better as the novel went on. I didn’t like the chapters where she was obsessing about Quinn a lot but the romance wasn’t completely shoved in your face and the love triangle was resolved by the end of the book which was good. Bea is an auxiliary and it was interesting to see the parallels between her life and Quinn’s-I obviously had more sympathy with Bea as her parents have to work themselves sick to get oxygen for her.
I liked Quinn, yes he’s privileged but he’s brave and you can tell that he really cares about Bea even though he is a Premium and doesn’t have to worry about oxygen as much as she does and I thought it was quite funny when he was obsessing about Alina’s “assets” but man was he dumb! I can’t believe how long it took him to work out that Bea liked him when it was so obvious to everyone from the start.
I didn’t find that Alina had many redeeming qualities-I usually do like feisty girls but Alina didn’t seem very human-after you see she was willing to leave an old lady for dead, you kind of lose any empathy you may have had for her. She did seem to care about Bea which was great but she seemed pretty stupid to me-why would you steal a government tank which you know can be tracked? I definitely preferred Bea and Quinn to Alina. I would like to learn a little more about Alina’s parents as we don’t learn much about them. Crossan does do well at giving the characters different “voices”-you could tell who the perspective of the chapter was from without looking at the headings of the chapter. I’d also like to learn more about Quinn’s dad as he seems like your typical villian (he works for Breathe) but there is a twist at the end.
The government is corrupt, but the resistance doesn’t seem much better, you can’t exactly feel sympathy for people who throw people in dungeons and take orders from a nine year old girl (don’t even get me started on Jazz). I was glad, however that the author was not preaching about the importance of protecting our environment but simply showing a possible version of the future (albeit not realistic, we would never cut down all the trees).
Overall this novel has an interesting premise and the plot is decent enough, the characters do have growth throughout the book and the cliffhanger at the end means I just have to read the second one to find out what happens!
My rating: 3/5
The next book I will be reviewing is The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Nighttime by Mark Haddon.