above world

Monday, April 2, 2012 |

Middle grade sci-fi? Recommended by Sarah Prineas (author of the lovely Winterling)? I’m there. I happened to do a quick search of my local library catalog, and found an ebook copy. Done? Done. From reading the synopsis alone, I thought Jenn Reese’s Above World had the potential to be unique, thrilling, and fresh. I wasn’t far off the mark.

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.

But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.

A fairly constant theme in dystopian fiction (and most adventure lit, as well) is that of the young person who knows ‘best.’ What I mean is, the protagonists see the injustice in a system and are willing to put everything at stake to make it right – or at least, different. With dystopian lit, this is necessary because the government or society IS corrupt (and harmful).

In Jenn Reese’s Above World, members of Aluna’s colony are dying, and no one seems to be doing anything concrete to solve the lethal problem. Aluna, incensed and horrified, is willing to risk her safety to find the answers, and her best friend Hoku comes along because, well, he’s her friend. What follows is a non-stop adventure through a world unimaginably altered by technology and human imagination.

The narration in Above World was split between Aluna and Hoku, and sounded most accurate in Aluna’s ‘voice,’ partially because she possessed a forceful, assured point-of-view. However, at the end of the book Hoku’s perspective emerged more often. One of the weaknesses of an otherwise engaging story was his recurring fixation on kissing – it did not ring true in the midst of life-or-death situations. Also: Hoku is twelve. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s a minor quibble.

One of the best things about the story was its focus on the friendships made and sustained in the course of crazy adventures. I had to include the bit of text (from page 56) below, because it made me laugh aloud, and it was just so typical!

“Aluna said nothing. For a minute, she just stared at him. He recognized that look: the furrow of her brow, the slight closing of her right eye, and the almost imperceptible twitching of her lips. Aluna was thinking, and there wasn’t a more dangerous activity in all the world.”

Above World is the first in a series, and I'm sure the adventures of Aluna and company will only get more interesting as the story progresses. It promises to be an exciting (and somewhat perilous) journey.

Recommended for: fans of science fiction and fantasy (whatever their age), and those who know that friends are the best companions on an adventure – especially one to save the world.


GABY said...

I'm jealous of you, you always find the most interesting middle grade books! Just by your recommendations, I need like a whole month dedicated to read only middle grade :P

Evie said...

I'll add this one to my wishlist. I really like that cover :)

Cecelia said...

GABY: That's exactly how I felt - and that's why I took part in Middle Grade March! There were too many good ones coming out, so I devoted a month to MG. It'll definitely be on my radar more from now on - I've fallen in love with the genre.

fredamans said...

I'm adding this one to my wishlist too. Really great review Cecelia, and I love the snippet from 56!

Gina @ My Precious said...

I've been looking forward to reading this one. Nice review. I'm happy its a good one. I agree there are so many great MG books out there, I too have fallen for the genera and am so tickled so see the bug has bitten a few others too!

Cheyenne Williams said...

Nice review! It sounds like a really interesting book.

I'm following your blog now! Could ya check out mine please?

Reve @ YA Books said...

Great review! I'm going to have to add this to my to buy list. I'm always looking for good, interesting MG books, and this one sounds like a winner. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Cecelia said...

All: I'm glad you are so enthusiastic about this title! Its premise was so unique that I worried that it would get lost in the shuffle. It's certainly an adventure!

Suzanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne said...

This book caught my eye at Barnes and Noble the other day, but I didn't realize it was middle grade. Beautiful cover too. Thanks for the great review!


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