Saturday, October 6, 2012

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Book:  Breathe
Author:  Sarah Crossan
Publisher:  Greenwillow
Date:  October 2, 2012
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss
My grade:  A

Inhale. Exhale.
Breathe . . .
The world is dead.
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air.

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.

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.

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? (cover and description from


Initial reaction
This book took my breath away!  (bad pun intended)

Title and Cover
I loved both of them.  The cover is so stark and foreboding and the title sums up everything.  I think that there is an almost primal reaction to that title because everyone fears not being able to breathe.

What’s the Story

So, this is yet another dystopian.  It has all the same elements as the plethora of dystopians currently out there.  But that’s not a bad thing, like many reviewers seem to make it out.  After all, dystopian fiction has a long and glorious history…..think of George Orwell, Ayn Rand, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury and Lois Lowry, just to name a few.  They all wrote great and powerful novels about a repressive government fooling the masses.  Why?  Because it’s happened historically and it could happen again! 

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this particular one is that I think that the environmental basis for the collapse of society and the rise of a corrupt corporate government is not at all far-fetched.  I think it is easy to see the destruction that we as humans have wreaked on the earth.  Is it much of a stretch to think of the oceans dying and the trees being all chopped down?  Not really.  And that is a very frightening scenario.  Which is one of the reasons that I think this book is so compelling.

Throughout the book, I found myself tensing up about not only the characters being discovered or captured, but even about their every breath.  I was worried about whether or not they would run out of oxygen and suffocate to death before the enemy could even find them, so that added tremendously to the tension of the book.  I kept turning pages at warp speed, hoping that they would finally arrive to a safe place where the very act of breathing was not constantly in danger.  I won’t tell you if I ever found that! : )

I loved the 3 main characters.  I have seen some reviewers who did not like the changing points of view every chapter, but I liked it.  It gave me, as a reader, more of a bird’s eye view of the story.  Also, each chapter was clearly marked by the character whose point of view I would be reading, so I never got confused.  I think that getting inside the heads of each of the 3 characters helped me to understand, empathize and eventually love all 3 of them.  Without that, I’m not sure that I would have liked them as much, especially Alina.

There are some really awful bad guys in this novel and even the resistance leader is not necessarily pleasant!  I found that I wasn’t sure who the main characters should ever trust, except for one another.  This kept me on my toes pretty well throughout the novel.

I found this novel to be a gripping, tension-filled read that had me literally holding my breath throughout the entirety of the book.  And what was even scarier about this book is that I could really imagine things working out exactly like this.  The planet is so ravaged that it no longer supports human life and some corporation steps in to take advantage and make a ton of profit at the expense of everyone else.  Anyone think that that doesn’t sound plausible? 

The Soundtrack

I couldn’t resist….here’s a playlist of songs about breathing!

Breathe Today by Flyleaf

Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5

Just Breathe by Anna Nalick


Breathe In, Breathe Out by Mat Kearney

Breathing by Lifehouse

Learning to Breathe by Switchfoot

The Final Grade
My grade for this book is an A.  I found it to be a very compelling book with a very timely subject matter.  I would love to read this book with my high school students and see what kind of discussion it sparks about the environment, class division and corporate ethics, all topics that are very, very relevant in our world.  In fact, I think I’m going to suggest this book to my Teen Reads Book Club.

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