Book Review: “Breathe” by Sarah Crossan

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.

Alina 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. Quinn 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. Bea 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?

BreatheI picked up Breathe as part of the Kindle Daily Deal program a little while ago because I thought the concept behind the story sounded pretty strong. The idea that somehow the air had been made toxic and only certain areas had breathable air isn’t entirely new, but adding the layer of having that air controlled by some sort of corporate machine made the idea a little bit more unique.

What I can say now after having read the book is that the concept is still incredibly strong, but this attempt at using the concept came up incredibly short. There is so much potential for an author to tap on this sort of idea even if they try to follow the traditional young adult fiction tropes. The corporate overseer of air, the potential love interests between the characters, the rebellion, all of it. I was really getting into what the possibilities were in the first 50 pages or so and then it all fell flat very quickly.

The characters of Quinn, Alina, and Bea all start out strong in their first appearances. Then they quickly unravel. Part of the problem seemed to be that the entire book was written in first person narrative, but from the viewpoint of three different characters, each character being the viewpoint for a specific chapter. First person narrative is strongest with one viewpoint character. Sometimes an author can get away with a second viewpoint if their writing skill is top-notch, but in my personal experience that is a rare feat. Going beyond two viewpoints is just an exercise in silliness if you ask me and it absolutely caused problems for this book. It was always fairly apparent when I was reading from Quinn’s eyes, but the chapters for Alina and Bea started to blur together horribly and it took me several pages of each chapter to figure out which character I was seeing things as. Especially when all three of the characters were in the same location, experiencing the same things, at the same time, and it was taking several chapters to depict what was going on.

On top of the confusion brought on by the viewpoints, I found that I just didn’t care what happened to the characters. I would have been entirely fine if one or two, maybe even all of them had died in one of the battles. I felt very little for them, they were just stick figures on the page for me. They showed little emotional growth, no maturity, and a whole lot of bad decision-making. It was all very flat.

In short, all that wasted potential made me sad. Very, very sad.

Breathe is the first in a series, I’m guessing a trilogy most likely and perhaps as the author gets a few more books under their belt things will smooth out, but I don’t think I’ll be getting the follow-up to this one unless I can get it for free and I really don’t have anything else to read at the time. I just don’t think I can take the time after having the concept put to the page so badly this time around.

I mentioned in a previous post about the books I read last month that this was one of the books that would have been served far better if it had been the fourth or fifth book the author had written rather than the first. The polish would have been there, some lessons would have been learned, etc.

Length: 389 pages

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Breathe” by Sarah Crossan

  1. How disappointing! I was really wanting to like this after your Up Next post about it, but it seems like if I read it it’ll be a waste of time. The premise sounds amazing, but if it falls short there’s really no point in reading it.

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