Sunday, April 6, 2014

Breathe, by Sarah Crossan- Book Brunch Review!

From Goodreads:
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?
This has been sitting on my shelf for ages. A BEA leftover from the year before last, I had picked it up several times thinking it sounded promising but was always distracted by other books and time lines. So it was perfect that our little Book Brunch group decided to take it on as the March read.

I have to say, I was disappointed, on basically every count, with this book. The characters were flat or unbelievable, the struggle felt really stilted and set up, and the big climax was uninspired. I have zero desire or motivation to pick up the second part. With such a clever pitch, it was an incredible let down to find the story so boring.

Lets start with the characters. Alina is by far the most interesting of the three mains, though they delve so little into her relationships with others that she has no depth. She is interested in someone who is nothing but a cameo, and her other relationships, like with her cousin, have zero complexity to them. Her parents are dead, but even that is more of an aside to the story more than a defining feature in her life. 

Bea is sweet and has definite possibilities. She has the poor background, hopeful parents she doesn't want to disappoint and an impossible crush on the premium guy who can't see her for who she is.  Her storyline was filled with opportunities to expand on the struggle but also on her personal struggle with morals, love, expectation and belief. Crossan touched on it now and a then, but mostly she wasted the potential she gave herself within the story. Also, and I just have to say this. Bea's internal monologues about how much she yearns for Quinn were kind of weird. They never really went into what she loved about the guy exactly, and since he's completely blind to her (at one point he's going on about the amazing green eyes on a girl he's infatuated with by saying "Now who do you know with green eyes?" to Bea, who has green eyes.), it needed explaining. But also they were just about impotent yearning, worded really oddly:
I don't love him in the way my parents love each other- sweetly, almost wearily. When I'm with him I feel each nerve within me awakening so that when he touches me, when he brushes my arm accidentally, I shiver and I have to bite back an urge to cry out.  I feel the ache everywhere: in my neck, in my belly, between my legs.
Thanks for sharing Bea. Hold on while I go bleach my eyeballs. Horny teenagers.

Quinn was the worst of the bunch. My number one issue with Quinn was that he sounded like what a woman would think a guy would say or think. He noticed women's shoes, refers to a girls strappy sandals (what guy would call strappy heels anything but heels?), his goofier, horny guy moments are too self aware and in the end so much of what he blurts out is just random and strange. I think Crossan was going for comical, but it fell really flat for me, just sounding odd and out of place.  Also, as with all the other characters, Quinn goes from A-B in thought processes without explanation. Like being blind to Bea and then switching gears and being completely into her.

As far as the actual story goes, there is far too little world development to engross me in the struggles of this dystopian world, especially since I wasn't invested in the characters personal struggles within it.  Besides the fact, many of the plot elements seemed to have no reason to them. Like the Pod Minister being a drunk, or Petra (the rebellion leader) having no alternative plan in case of discovery (umm, duh, you're an underground resistance movement, a few miles away from the government you're fighting against). Also, many of the scenes involved complete nonsense:
When I get home, I know I'm right. My father is pacing the living room. He looks like he's about to have some kind of fit. Lennon and Keane are hiding behind the couch, peeking out at him. And my mother is lying on the floor...{then the pod minister arrives with his kids Oscar and Niamh}
"Niamh! What a beauty she is," my father says, taking Niamh's hand between his own and squeezing it
"Ha! She didn't look like that an hour ago. And you should see her wehn she gets out of bed. A horror! ha!" The Pod Minister barges right past my father and into the living room, where he pulls my mother up off the floor and kisses her right on the lips, his mouth opening slightly. My father lets go of Niamh's hand and follows him in.
Why was Quinn's mom lying on the floor? Or his brothers behind the couch? His father isn't portrayed as abusive, in fact you're supposed to be shocked when he's revealed to have a more cut-throat career than he's ever told his family. Why does the Pod Minister disparage the daughter he's trying to pair up with Quinn, or french Quinn's mom? Um...why is there no reaction to him frenching Quinn's mom??! Presumably these are supposed to be subtle hints at abusive personalities (Quinn's dad) and the hidden (?) drunken state of the Pod Minister (who is always drinking, so not really a shocker), but they don't work that way, and instead just come off as awkward, disjointed moments in the story.

In the end nothing in this story kept my interest enough to propel me onwards. I read the whole book, but it was a forced march, as nothing was compelling enough to keep me turning the pages. As for the "cliff hanger" it couldn't have been more uninteresting. This will not be a sequel I have any desire to read, nor a series I am even vaguely curious about where it goes down the road.

Breathe, by Sarah Crossan
Published by Greenwillow, October 2012
My copy obtained at the BEA
Buy Breathe on Amazon
Check out more reviews for Breathe from the Book Brunch Club