Breathe was pretty much everything I expected, and everything I hoped, it would be.
I thought the concept was great, and well executed. I thought the world building was just the right level, as well as clear and concise and easy to grasp (for the most part—but I’ll expand on that below). And I enjoyed getting to know the characters and each of their personalities. So let’s take a look at each of those.
The idea of air/oxygen being a commodity. Yep, totally on board with that. The only thing I didn’t really understand, with regards to the world building and concept, was The Switch. I get there was ‘the Switch’, and I get this was the point where everything changed in the world, and thus the diminishment of oxygen occurred thanks to the loss of trees, and then the pod was created for ‘the populations safe keeping’. BUT, I seriously don’t understand exactly what the ‘Switch’ was. What happened for all of these proceeding events to happen? Maybe it was in there, but if it was, I didn’t ‘get’ it. And whilst this might sound like an issue I failed to mention above, please rest assured that this was pretty much my biggest issue. So, moving on from this ‘hole’, what about the whole misconception of the population, and the entrapment, almost, by the Pod government (for want of a better term)? Because I didn’t really see that twist, that enlightenment coming, and thought it added a new dimension and greater credibility to the Resistance’s cause. But even the Resistance isn’t without flaw. Because, although their scope—their vision and mission statement—may be of a better standard morally than that within the pod government, they seem unaware that they, too, have created their own hierarchy, their own social standings, where they are answerable to one, and unable to upset others for fear of recrimination, thus making their own kind of government within itself. I wonder how the new era of the Resistance will continue forward after the outcome they had in Breathe? I’m very intrigued to find that out in future books.
So, what about those characters I mentioned? Well, we have three main characters, who all take a turn in narrating. And yep, all of those narrations are in 1st person present tense. And here comes my second niggle (which isn’t a big one, I promise). Whilst Quinn’s narration was easily identifiable as his, due to the slightly rougher tone to his ‘voice’, I didn’t find Bea’s and Alina’s that distinguishable from each other’s. And each time, I had to take note of the name beneath the chapter number to reassure whose head I was heading into—and in my opinion, I shouldn’t have to. Because each character’s ‘voice’ should be individual to them—and I wanted the difference we’re introduced to in their personalities to shine through here but it didn’t. Not quite. However, that aside, I liked these characters a lot. Quinn, whilst appearing a bit of a jack-the-lad- early on, soon begins to grow on the reader (if he doesn’t already), and we just know he’s going to turn into someone pretty cool. Which he does. Bea, the soft and gentle one with a large heart and a will of steel kind of stole the show for me in here. She was the one I connected with the most, the one I rooted for, the one I wanted everything to be okay for. Despite her heartbreak—which I’d have liked portrayed with a little more force—she did kind of get a decent outcome, and I’m looking forward to her character developing more. And then there was Alina, the one who started out tough and so self-assured, but whose character development went in the other direction as her hard exterior showed cracks and she allowed herself to feel compassion for those around her, to give a damn about someone other than herself, and about something other than the cause.
The rest of the characters were pretty cool, too. I loved Bea’s parents and how they grew into what Bea needed them to be. The yampy (or so it first appears) neighbour to Alina’s aunt and uncle, and the role he ends up playing—great addition to the book. Silas—Alina’s cousin—strong, dependable, and very likeable. The Pod Minister—as barmy as they come and power hungry to boot, and seriously quite the irritant and irrationally mad: a dangerous concoction. The team at The Grove: whilst we’re introduced to quite a few characters at The Grove in a relatively short space of time, we understand who each of them are, and automatically understand their standing and position within the Resistance—great job on those. And then last, but by no means least, Quinn’s family. His brothers are cute and just the right amount of annoying yet loveable. His mother is a weak-spined woman who appears to be incredibly self-centred but, in truth, I think she just doesn’t know how to think for herself, or to stand up and disagree with Quinn’s father. And then Quinn’s father, and boy oh boy, what an a$$hat he was. To be honest, I don’t have a complete handle on this guy. He, too, appears weak-spined in front of the Pod Minister, but then acts like a leader later on in the book. Is it all just an act when he’s slathering the PM’s boots? A means to an end? Or is he slotted into the category so many bullies are: cowardly when the tables are turned upon them? I truly have no idea which he is. And when he’s so freakin’ horrible to Quinn—with his threats and whatnot—but then later, right near the end, he seems softer toward his son? Again, this dude’s personality is like a tennis match. Who is he? Which is he? Because, by the end of the book, I have no idea which side of this portrayed character is the true Quinn’s dad.
How many niggles is that now? Three? Okay then, let’s talk about the prose. The writing. Well, the sentences flowed pretty well and meant I could roll along through my reading at a consistent pace. I don’t think I found a singular spot that tripped me up. Sure, there were unnecessary sentences and spots where we’re told someone is about to say/do something and then shown them doing it; and sure, there was quite a lot of tell over show, which I dealt with because this was a consistency in the writing, so I’m accepting it as the adopted style; and sure there were a fair few of what I’d peg as POV breaches where assumptions were made about the motivations of characters whose POV we weren’t in … BUT, none of them bugged me enough to mar my reading pleasure of this story. Nothing I’ve mentioned in here that bugged me had me rolling my eyes, or shaking my book in annoyance (yeah, I do that), or wondering if I’d ever finish, or if I’d made a mistake in picking this book up.
Because I genuinely enjoyed this story. A lot.
And I am now eagerly awaiting book number 2.