I’ll be blunt, shall I? I’ve read cereal boxes that were more exciting than this book. I might have been able to chalk this up to just another case of Insta!Dystopia and moved on, but my disappointment is compounded by the fact that I’ve read Crossan’s The Weight of Water, and it’s really good. So I expected more from Breathe. And it did not deliver. Something called The Shift has caused oxygen levels to plunge and as there are no trees, the drastically reduced population live inside a Pod city. Society is divided into a caste system, with Premiums at the top being able to afford extra oxygen to do things like exercise, dance and have sex whenever they want to. The Auxiliaries, on the other hand, are basically underlings who have their lifestyle strictly curtailed by their inability to purchase extra oxygen. Quinn is a Premium with a powerful father. Bea is his Auxiliary best friend who spends a lot of time gazing at him longingly. Alina is a member of a rebel group, creatively named The Resistance, who do incredibly subversive things like stealing cuttings and growing plants, because it turns out this worldwide oxygen famine is pretty much a BIG. CONSPIRACY. I found the worldbuilding unconvincing. Crossan gives a very bare bones explanation for the state of the world in Breathe and it made no sense to me. I don’t think it’s a bad premise, but I do think the flimsy way it’s presented undermines reader investment in the concept. When the book’s response to any probing questions is basically: “Because THE SWITCH”, I stop being interested. Breathe raises more questions than it answers, and while it’s arguable that the premise will be expanded upon as the series progresses, I really think it was necessary in the first book. I won’t believe an earth-altering cataclysmic event unless you give me a reason to. Otherwise, it seems like lazy writing. If you’re going to take shortcuts on the worldbuilding, expect that I will poke holes in it. The story is narrated in first person by Alina, Quinn and Bea, who unfortunately sound identical. Perhaps third person perspective might have been more successful, because first person was simply bland and confusing. Despite the differences in their circumstances, and ostensibly their personalities, there wasn’t much here to differentiate between them and make their individual motivations clear. While Quinn’s perspective includes some helpful cues like how he enjoys staring at Alina’s arse, the voices of the main characters feel interchangeable. In contrast, the secondary characters seem almost caricature-like. The Pod Minister, whom I assume is the main antagonist, is cartoonishly exaggerated and rendered ridiculous by clunky dialogue and a contrived whiskey-drinking habit that is just bizarre. Other characters, including Quinn’s mother and Alina’s helpful neighbour, appear to exist solely as plot devices, cropping up when the story needs a helping hand. With such patchy characterisation, it’s difficult to care about their predicament, or the relationships between the characters. Quinn, Bea and Alina brave the outside world in search of the resistance, with dwindling oxygen supplies, the threat of capture and a generous helping of unrequited love serving to for dramatic tension. But honestly? I felt apathetic about all of it. There was something so wooden and flat about this entire book, that even the action scenes felt stilted at best and comical at worst. (When someone shouted “Fight with gusto!” I actually laughed. Apparently, I’d make a poor rebel.)Despite what might have been an interesting premise, Breathe lacked depth. The complex environmental issues are not explored in any meaningful way, and the climax and resolution felt too convenient. Even the final battle scenes are sort of skimmed over, brushed aside for a neatly wrapped ending and obligatory segue to the sequel. I know I’ve come down hard on this book, but I expected more from it than it ultimately was. After enjoying Crossan’s verse novel, I had anticipated good things from Breathe as a character-driven, intelligent dystopia. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was either of those.Dystopian thriller? No. Dystopian snoozefest.Meh.