A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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A few instances each of "hell, "damn," "piss," and "bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The story's primary villain drinks heavily and in one scene forces underage teens to join him in consuming alcohol.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.