Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Author: Sarah Crossan
Series: Breathe #1
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult
Publisher: GreenWillow
Publication Date: October 2, 2012

The world has no air. If you want to survive, you pay to breathe. But what if you can't? And what if you think everything could be different?

Ever since the Switch, when the oxygen levels plummeted and most of humanity died, the survivors have been protected in glass domes full of manufactured air. Protected . . . or trapped? Or controlled? Alina's a revolutionary who believes we can save the environment. Quinn's a Premium who's never had to worry about having enough air. His best friend, Bea, is an Auxiliary who's never worried about anything but having enough air. When the three cross paths, they will change everything.

Breathe by Sarah Crossan is a split narrative book that follows the lives of three teenagers living in a world with limited oxygen after a combination of Global Warming and human carelessness devastate the world leaving those left to live in Pods where everything they do and every decision they make is dictated by the Breathe corporation. 

Breathe is by all accounts your standard dystopian. You have the rich boy who doesn't see anything wrong with how society functions, the rebellious girl who wants to change the world and lastly, the poor girl who wants nothing but to see her family safe and happy who winds up rising from adversity to change a nation. All standard, all done a million times before in some way, shape or form. However, don't let that deter you, Breathe by Sarah Crossan might on its base level be standard but dig a little deeper, look beyond the similarities and you have one very enriching and at times horrifyingly refreshing dystopian.

One of the things I really liked about this story was seeing how monitoring air consumption impacted the choices the characters in the story make daily. Makes sense that when your living on borrowed air every single thing you do has to be thought out and planned accordingly. That means for those except the wealthiest of citizens that life isn't all that exciting and even walking over anything but a snails pace can earn you a hefty fine or even jail time. Oh and sex? Forget about that, takes to much air. Dancing? Nope. Even exercising is near impossible for the poorest of the poor.  I don't know about you but that sounds like an awful existence to me. 

Another thing that I found intriguing was the fact that the Government went out of its way to destroy all the flora and fauna should any be found. I mean, I guess it makes sense to an extent since they want to keep controlling the citizens in the pods but it also seems to be a bit overzealous on their part considering how few citizens travel beyond the safety of the pods anyway. The scene with the trees really made me sad and angry. Such a waste and a terrible loss for everyone. 

Lastly, I really liked the surprises regarding Quinn's Father. I like when an awful character can be redeemed and I think he was by the end. Let's just hope he stays that way. 

Now even though I really enjoyed Breathe, the story was not without some faults that ultimately kept me from rating the book higher. 

First off, the characters were a big sticking point for me. I understand why the Author chose to go the multiple perspectives route but when the characters lack any sort of real depth or differentiating personalities it can make for some very long chapters. I shouldn't have to double back and see who I'm following from chapter to chapter but I had to do this several times since the characters voices were nearly identical to read and considering Quinn is a boy that is a problem. 

Secondly, I really was hoping to see more air stability outside the pods. I think having the characters remain in masks the entire book really lessened the impact for me of life returning from the brink anew. I mean yeah, they can meditate or whatever and survive if they monitor their breathing but how is that existence any different than life inside the pods? Yes you would be "Free" but without the full use of your lung capacity you'd still be living a pretty crappy, self monitored existence. 

Lastly, I think my biggest issue with the story was I had no clue that I was in Britain for a good chunk of the story. The accents weren't noticeably defined and neither was the landscape. I honestly thought the Pods were in America the entire time and that the characters were living along the gulf coast in the desert somewhere. It wasn't until I think Maude makes a comment about guns that I realized where we were. 

Final Thoughts
Breathe might have had a few pacing issue and lacked character development needed to connect with the characters more  but it was still a very good read nonetheless. Would I recommend Breathe? Yes, I think the plot has real potential to become a great series and when the story got it right it made for a very entertaining read. Will I be reading the sequel? You betcha. With that being said, I'll be rating Breathe by Sarah Crossan  ★★★★.

 *Copy purchased.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in an which way  for providing them.

About the Author
Sarah Crossan is Irish. She graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Literature before training as an English and Drama teacher at Cambridge University and worked to promote creative writing in schools before leaving teaching to write full time. 

She completed her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Warwick in 2003 and in 2010 received an Edward Albee Fellowship for writing.

She currently lives in NYC.

Follow Sarah: Twitter / Goodreads / Website / Facebook / HarperTeen


  1. I have the ARC for the next book so I was excited then I found out it was the sequel so…Damn…I haven't gotten to read Breathe yet huhu my copy for Resist is such a waste. I've heard many negative things about Breathe so I wasn't sure if it'll be good or not. Anyways lovely review!

    1. I think the lack of character development was a big issue for many readers for sure.

  2. I have heard mixed things about this one and while it does sound like a standard dystopia I'm glad it's more than that. Also this happens way too often that while reading a book I never know where on Earth am I. I always assume it's the USA so yeah I totally understand that. Great review :)

    1. I really couldn't tell it was the U.K. and to find out it was kinda baffled me.


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