Publisher: Greenwillow (2012)
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Anyone so thoroughly sick of YA Dystopian they can't stand the sight of them is going to want to look away now. For those not irredeemably jaded ...
Breathe by Sarah Crossan has three protagonists, each with point-of-view chapters; Alina, Bea and Quinn. The premise is that all trees are dead and Earth has run out of oxygen.
Everyone lives inside a Dome (sound familiar?), where they have to pay for artificial air if they want to, y'know, breathe. Quinn is a Premium, a rich boy whose family can afford all the air they want. Bea is an Auxiliary who struggles to pay for breathing: she can't dance, sing or exercise enough for fear of using up too much air. Quinn and Bea are best friends. On top of that, Bea is in unrequited love with Quinn.
Alina is different, due to the not-so-inconsequential fact that she's a rebel (although what passes for rebellion here is growing illegal plants. Growing plants, full stop). One day, Quinn spots Alina in the cafeteria and fancies her. Quinn and Bea leave the Dome for a weekend holiday with air tanks, but Alina's leaving at the same time. Of course, where Alina's going is trouble. Quinn and Bea get caught up in it and bam, drama and danger and adventure.*
I gave this 3.5 stars because it's a good solid read and a pleasant surprise The three points-of-view was quite hefty to pick up at the outset and I didn't enjoy having to get used to three narrators. Their voices are reasonably distinctive, thankfully, and well-characterised, in my opinion.
Not that I know what goes on in boys' heads, but Quinn seems like the most realistic one I've ever read. He's not exactly shy in his internal monologue, I have to say. You can almost feel the hormones. Bea is sensitive, studious and compassionate. She was easy enough to sympathise with, I suppose, but you certainly wouldn't be in awe of her strength. Also, at the start of the book she spends half her time being a teatowel and wishing Quinn would notice her. Alina is your typical strong rebel girl, though even more aloof and hostile than usual. She's not just snarky; at first she seems genuinely uninterested in talking to or mixing with the other main characters (non-rebels, but in the same school).
I quite like the premise, and there's a decent amount of attention paid to the scientific-authenticity side of things. The plotline twists and turns skilfully and there's a real sense of danger, though not as much suspense as there could've been. The setting was really well-described, particularly a certain place outside the Dome that I can't talk about because of spoilers.
Twists! Fabulous twists, both in the main story and in the relationships between characters.
Didn't completely wow me compared to some books I've read recently, but worth a look. It's the first in a trilogy, which I miiiight continue. Depends.