Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Breathe Book Poster Image
OK but melodramatic sci-fi adventure on airless Earth.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Breathe is set in a future in which almost all vegetation has died off, and the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere has plunged dramatically. How even a handful of humanity could survive such a cataclysm is glossed over. The author is more concerned with questions of freedom vs. authority than fully exploring the implications of natural apocalypse.

Positive Messages

The politics of Breathe are more complex than might be first expected. Although the Ministry that rules life within the glass-covered pod is corrupt and totalitarian, the Resistance, whose members live outside, is also far from perfect. It's up to Quinn, Alina, and Bea to decide for themselves what it means to live freely and work together for mutual survival.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At the beginning of Breathe, Quinn, Alina, and Brea are each focused on their own major problems. As the plot progresses, they're forced to reassess their immediate concerns and learn to work together.


There's a fair amount of violence in Breathe, which includes a knife fight, a riot, a couple of fatal shootings, and a serious beating. But the novel isn't gratuitous in its depiction of life-and-death struggles.


A boy stares at a girl's body. A couple has a few passionate kisses. It's implied that two older male characters share a romantic relationship.


A few instances each of "hell, "damn," "piss," and "bitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The story's primary villain drinks heavily and in one scene forces underage teens to join him in consuming alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Breathe is a well-intentioned, if a tad clunky, post-apocalyptic adventure that explores the meaning of freedom after a natural disaster. There's a fair amount of violence -- a beating, some fatal shootings, a knife attack, a riot -- but the depiction of these incidents is neither graphic nor gratuitous. The infrequent language and minimal sexual content will prove unobjectionable to most teen readers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLibrary2468 March 22, 2014

Enjoyable story

I enjoyed this story. It was an easy read and didn't get very political. I enjoyed the characters and didn't see a need to know the back story. There... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 23, 2013

HI LEO VALDEZ IS AMAZING (its a heroes of olympus thing you wouldn't understand)

Ok, I just read a preview and just wanted to add it says the S word. And it is kinda annoying because one of the first things the book says is romance. and your... Continue reading

What's the story?

Within the pod owned by the Breathe Corporation, Quinn and Bea have enough oxygen to survive, even if Bea is lower-class \"auxiliary.\" But when they help outsider Alina escape from her pursuers, they put themselves in extreme danger outside the protective walls of their pod. With only two days' worth of oxygen in their tanks, the trio must face drifters, outwit soldiers, and come to terms with the brutal strategies of the Resistance.

Is it any good?

This has many of the components of the modern post-apocalyptic YA novel, but it never quite ignites as a first-rate adventure story. Perhaps it's that the constant threat of suffocation isn't sufficiently compelling or that the point of view is split among three characters, none of whom truly shines as a protagonist.

With a villain named "Caine Knavery," subtlety isn't Breathe's strong suit, and the dialogue and prose would benefit from more originality and less melodrama.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Breathe measures up as a post-apocalyptic adventure. How does it compare with other sci-fi stories about the struggle to survive after a natural disaster on Earth? 

  • Why do governments keep secrets from their citizens? Are they ever justified in doing so?

  • Do you think it would be possible for humanity to survive on an Earth almost devoid of trees?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi and dystopian novels

Themes & Topics

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