Today I am so excited to tell you all about an awesome YA scifi novel, UNBREATHABLE. We actually get to welcome Hafsah Laziaf herself to the blog today! I asked her to tell us about her favorite authors. Thanks for being here, Hafsah!
There are very few authors I adore. Not as people (I adore many as people), but as actual authors.
Namely, Leigh Bardugo, Marissa Meyer, Veronica Roth – they have writing styles that leave you in awe, and I always wanted that. More than an epic storyline, I wanted a writing style to be adored, mentioned, or at least acknowledged.
I can’t say I’ve accomplished that with UNBREATHABLE, but that was my goal, and those three authors—along with others who would have influenced me without me even realizing it—have affected my writing in many ways.
The authors themselves didn’t affect UNBREATHABLE directly. But some of their characters did.
Queen Levana: CINDER’s villain, Queen Levana, was the main inspiration behind Queen Rhea – one of the villains in UNBREATHABLE. Levana’s tactics aren’t wholly readable, making her slightly shady, yet she was someone I loved reading about, and someone who clung to me long after I had put CINDER down. When I was first brainstorming the conflict in UNBREATHABLE, it was around the same time I had finished CINDER, and the idea of an evil queen who had done something as treacherous as Levana’s past crime was very appealing – and in the end, everything else about Rhea took shape. They aren’t clones of one another, but I took Levana’s base to give Rhea life.
Eric: One of the smaller villains in Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT series was the main inspiration behind Flynn, a character who didn’t make it UNBREATHABLE’s final pages. Not in character—Flynn was a very good character, as opposed to Eric—but in appearance. Flynn was always dressing outside the typical Jutaire boundaries, with piercings and sleeveless vests. I loved him, but he just had to go.
The Darkling: One of my favorite literary characters of all time is the Darkling, from Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW & BONE. He’s pure evil, but we soon learn that he, just like anyone, is redeemable. There’s something to him that made me see past the darkness in his heart, and I wanted a character just like him – who confused my protagonist the way the Darkling confused Alina. I know love triangles irk many people, but I felt that when two people are practically twins, they can both like the same thing (or person, which in this case is Lissa) and can both be liked by the same person. In the case of Rowan, I wanted a redeemable bad guy, whose darkness was enticing, and the first character to come to mind was the Darkling. He was the inspiration, and not many traits can be compared, but I did get the idea for Rowan’s coat-wearing habits from him ;)
In the end, my influences will probably only be noticed by me. As a debut author, I have countless doubts and thoughts of my own story ‘not being good enough’ that I’m afraid to say “these big names influenced me”. But that is what it is!
Darci again. I love hearing about character roots and author influences, so Hafsah, your influences are awesome. I'll say that for me, as a reader, Rowan definitely took on a confusing appeal to me, so that's one I'd say you did well with!
Now, my review:
UNBREATHABLE is the story of Lissa, whose father discovers that Earth was not destroyed like they thought it was when humans landed on Jutaire. The air of Jutaire is toxic to humans. Then Lissa discovers she can breathe it. Within days her father is executed and she is brought into a crazy whirlwind of events.
One thing I will say about UNBREATHABLE: it definitely keeps you on your toes! One thing after another, and you're never quite sure if happily-ever-after is coming or not (and I'm not saying either way!). The main characters, Lissa, Julian, and Rowan, are all strong and well developed. The action scenes got a little confusing to me at times, and there were some descriptions and wording I found a little awkward, but that might just be personal taste.
One thing that really stood out to me: Hafsah has a GIFT for writing romance. I loved all of the sweet/shy love scenes just as much as the hot/make-out scenes. Adding the romantic element to the SciFi world in such a powerful way really made this story shine.
So go add it to your Goodreads list, and put it on your calendars. Release day ic Oct. 29th and you'll want to get it right away!