ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published October 2, 2012. Breathe #1. Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins). 371 pp.
Imagine a world where there aren’t any trees or oceans. As trees died and oceans dried up, oxygen levels fell and people perished. The Breathe Corporation rescued everyone by building a glass dome, called the Pod, and pumping in just enough oxygen to keep everyone alive. Many years ago, they had told the people it would be temporary, just until oxygen was restored outside the Pod. In the meantime, people must pay to breathe. The richer you are, the more oxygen you can buy, dividing the Pod into those who can (Premiums), and those who can’t (everyone else.) What no one knows is that Breathe has no intentions of restoring the world’s supply of air.
Sixteen year old Alina is a rebel, and part of the Resistance. Rebels secretly steal tree cuttings from the Ministry, who have them well guarded in certain areas of the Pod, and plant them in The Outlands, outside of the Pod. Without oxygen tanks, everyone has been told it’s impossible to survive, but Alina and the Resistance have learned how to breathe on minimal air. They want to restore the oxygen supply to the world, which can only be done through restoring the trees.
As a Premium, Quinn was born into a life of privilege. He befriends Bea, a lowly Auxiliary who can barely afford the oxygen she breathes. Together they go camping in The Outlands, but their plans are ruined by Alina who is running from the Ministry. Before they know it, all of them are involved in a struggle between those who want to control breathing for profit, and those who just want to breathe to live.
In this dystopian novel, told through the voices of Quinn, Alina and Bea, reading about the simple act of breathing and the repercussions that arise when it’s taken away through man’s own behavior is very eye-opening. I’ve always been upset reading about loggers cutting down trees, while rainforests lose their riches, but Crossan gave another view to think about with these acts combining across the world to cause oxygen to fail. There is definitely going to be a part 2 to this series, and I know high schoolers will be clamoring to get their hands on it. I’ll be right there next to them.