Monday, May 4, 2015
Review: Undertow by Michael Buckley
Author: Michael Buckley
Series: Undertow, Book One
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published Date: 5 May 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository
I received this title through NetGalley from HMH Books for Young Readers for review.
Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.
Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders. (summary from Goodreads)
An imaginative and captivating read, Undertow is heart-racing from start to finish.
A YA sci-fi, Buckley tackles the idea of alien creatures coming not from another planet but from the depths of the ocean of our own planet, and it's a concept that is cleverly achieved. The notion of a whole advanced society of creatures coexisting on our planet for thousands of years without our knowledge kind of blows my mind. It's definitely thought-provoking, and you can't help but wonder what would happen if such a thing did occur. That's a question Buckley delves into perfectly, offering views from the maniacal "they're all monsters let's experiment on and/or kill them" to the accepting "let's find a way to cohabit peacefully", and all that's in between. He offers a terrifying and frustrating portrayal of humanity, and the tension mounts page after page as the story builds to its final explosive confrontations. The Alpha are a violent and noble race with a fascinating culture so very different from our own. Buckley's descriptions of their appearances certainly paint quite the picture. It works well that Lyric is half-human, half-Alpha, as it allows readers to relate to her while also plausibly allowing us to have a different insight into the Alpha. Buckley balances the alien 'invasion' scenario with smaller story arcs like friendship, family, teen romance, and domestic abuse, so as to ground it in real life and keep it uniquely YA.
Lyric is snarky and funny in the face of the situations she finds her and her family in. I liked that even at her most terrified she stepped up to do the right thing. By the end of the book she's truly come into herself and I'm really looking forward to finding out where Lyric goes from here. While Lyric is a great MC, the side characters don't feel as standout. They're interesting, but are sort of only footnotes in Lyric's journey, even those by her side throughout most of the novel. They're somewhat one dimensional in their views and actions. Likewise, the romance between Lyric and Fathom is underdeveloped, practically insta-love. Due to their situations however, it's put on hold and that I quite liked. Buckley has the chance to actually develop their relationship believably as the series continues.
There's a lot left up in the air throughout Undertow. There are so many questions about the history of the Alpha, of their religion, and of their still developing powers, as it were. I'm interested to know more about who is kidnapping Alpha, and about the manipulations of Minerva and the Prime. Buckley certainly leaves us with a cliffhanger! I absolutely cannot wait to continue this series to see where Buckley takes us next.
Undertow is an engrossing read, one that is sure to thrill.