Breathe by Sarah Crossan

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Breathe by Sarah Crossan

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Thought-provoking dystopian novel set in a world with no air and ruthless corporate overlords. Easy to read but with serious themes, Breathe is for all fans of future catastrophe and anyone interested in preserving the Earth's precious natural resources.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408827190

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When the trees were all felled to make crop land to feed an exploding population, oxygen levels on Earth fell. Eventually, the air became unbreathable. A government lottery decided who would live inside the life-saving Pod created by Breathe. Those left on the outside died. Years later, Pod society is divided into Premiums, who have easy lives, plenty of air and positions of power, and Auxiliaries, who labour at endless shifts and pay through the nose for enough oxygen to get by. A resistance group is trying to replant the Earth and reduce dependence on the Pod, but Breathe and the Pod Minister will stop at nothing to crush them.

Alina is part of the Resistance. Quinn is a Premium boy destined for great things. Bea is one of the brightest young people in the Pod, but an Auxiliary. She dreams of a better life but the odds are stacked against her. Thrown together on a trip Outside, these three make unlikely allies. But the conspiracy they unearth is shocking. Can they put aside their differences and fight for what's right?

You might sigh at yet another entrant into this overheated dystopian genre. Future catastrophe is the new black, isn't it? Me, I don't mind. I love this genre. Breathe takes an environmental slant on the topic and I like that, too. Many of its competitors see a world devastated by war or a virus or some other disastrous event, but Breathe looks at a slow, anthropogenic slide into dystopia. And that makes it a little bit more political than the average, which also appeals to me. Corporate power is a strong theme in this book, so it will appeal to anyone with an interest in today's society and issues, not just those who want a bloodbath set in the future.

But don't imagine an abstruse, theoretical book. Breathe has a good, tight structure, plenty of action and some romance. It's a breeze to read and its pace keeps you wanting to turn the pages. Its characters are interesting, too, and they all develop over the course of the story. Quinn starts out as a well-meaning but naive and indulged Premium. He has good intentions but no real understanding of the life led by Auxiliaries or of what the Resistance are fighting for. Once the scales fall from his eyes, he will need to decide whether or not he has the courage to stand up for what's right. Similarly, Bea must face up to the corruption within the Pod and give up her social ambition. But how can she do this while still retaining the integrity that makes her the person she is? Alina too, must give up her prejudice and learn that you can fight for a cause without becoming entirely hard and unfeeling.

As you can see, I enjoyed Breathe. And I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

For another look at a future short of oxygen, you could look at Dark Life by Kat Falls, which takes place on the floor of the ocean. Environmentalists will live The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd.

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Buy Breathe by Sarah Crossan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Breathe by Sarah Crossan at


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