Breathe by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury on 11th October 2012
When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from?
In 'Breathe' Sarah Crossan has taken the seed of a truly original idea and allowed it to flourish and grow into this spectacular novel. I always wonder where authors get the ideas for their books and this one in particular is truly unique. Imagine a world where oxygen is a valued and precious commodity, now in short supply. Where you can't run around, kiss the boy you love or simply lead a normal life because you may not have enough oxygen to breathe to do so. This is the terrifying concept which Sarah Crossan weaves into her new book.
I first came across Sarah's writing last year when I read her first book, the brilliant 'The Weight of Water' which was entirely in prose. It was an impressive debut and I've been looking forward to having the opportunity to read more of her work ever since. 'Breathe' is quite a change of direction for her and her first young-adult novel but it absolutely lived up to all my expectations.
Three distinct characters share the narrative: Bea, Quinn and Alina. Thrown together on a journey outside of the 'protective pod' in which they live, they set out to discover the real truth about the world they've all come to fear. Each character had a very unique voice which helped with the alternating chapters. My personal favourite was Bea who is an Auxiliary. In love with her best friend Quinn, she longs for a better life for herself and her family. She's kind hearted and intelligent and was an appealing figure in the book with a genuine heart of gold. There's a kind of love triangle between the three teenagers, which initially I was a little wary of but I liked the outcome of this which didn't necessarily follow the traditional pattern.
This is a truly captivating and engrossing book which is the first in a new trilogy. If you enjoyed the Matched series by Ally Condie then you'll love 'Breathe'. I was swept away by the story and the fast paced plot and can't wait to find out what's going to happen next.