Review: Above World

Review: Above WorldAbove World by Jenn Reese
Series: Above World #1
Published by Candlewick on February 14, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Science Fiction
Pages: 356
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
four-stars

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.

First Sentence: “Aluna swam toward the abandoned outpost, her heart pounding, her breathing necklace pulsing at her throat.”

Review:
In a nice change of pace from all of the young adult dystopias, I read Jenn Reese’s middle grade dystopia. Her book was an utter delight, full of clever world building, mixed-up creatures and vibrant characters. Not only that, but her book has become my favorite mermaid book thus far!

Though Above World is categorized as a middle grade by the age of the protagonists and the brevity of the story, I see no reason why adults and teens would not enjoy it as well. The main characters have a maturity and cleverness that keeps them from reading like children. While some middle grade novels can be painful for an older reader because the plot solutions are so obvious, Above World kept me entertained and ready to find out what would come next.

Above World begins under the see with the Kampii, essentially mermaids. However, these mermaids are unlike any others you’ve ever encountered before. They breathe through an apparatus, a breathing necklace, which plugs into their lungs. They trade their legs for a tail in a coming of age ceremony after taking a pill. Aluna, our heroine, is about to receive her tail and become an adult. She does not get to, though, because she fails her loyalty test, because she asks questions about why Kampii are dying, their breathing necklaces failing so that they drown in their home.

Aluna, though she desperately wanted her tail, does not whine about the fact that her father and the rest of the leaders punished her for trying to save the Kampii. Instead, she sets out for the Above World, the land, to find HydroTek, the company that manufactured the breathers. She will figure out how to fix them, so that no more of her friends have to die. She planned to go alone, but her best friend Hoku, younger and a genius with tech, followed her.

Together Aluna and Hoku go on a number of adventures, making new friends and allies along the way. Aluna is an amazingly powerful girl, gifted with fighting. Hoku’s skills run toward planning and electronics. All of the characters are bursting with life. My personal favorite, an adorable little scene stealer, is Zorro, a raccoon/computer. He reminds me a lot of R2-D2, which basically means he is the most adorable and totally reliable in a crisis.

The forces of evil and the dystopian elements, which I wish I could talk about more, but won’t because I think they’ll be more fun for you to discover on your own, are captivating too. I will say that one of the bad guys reminded me a lot of the scary neighbor kid in Toy Story.

There is some romance, but that’s not the focus, which is a good thing considering how young the main characters are. What is there is pretty freaking adorable. Hoku’s a bit girl crazy, which just adds to his cute, nerdy persona. There are some hinted romances for the future, but there’s been no rush for true love or anything like that. Oh, middle grade, thank you for this wonderful break from romances that progress too quickly.

Writing dystopian fiction for younger readers can be quite tricky, but Reese pulls it off masterfully. I will be eagerly anticipating the next installment!

Favorite Quote:

“She gave Calli credit for not stumbling over Hoku’s name this time, though the girl still turned red as a shrimp. Young love looked so incredibly messy, with all the mumbling and smiling and saying ridiculous things. Good thing Aluna had never fallen into that trap. None of the boys back in the City of Shifting Tides had ever inspired her to embarrass herself like that. Life was easier without the complication.”

10 responses to “Review: Above World”

  1. Lilian says:

    OOOOO. A Candlewick book! And a middle grade dystopia? Those exist? *o*
    It does sound like a cute, fun read, though I do get a juvenile vibe from all these mermaid business.

    Why does names remind me of Hawaiian? *o* Hoku is sea turtle in Hawaiian. *random fact moment*

    • Christina says:

      There are a few, but sometimes they’re much too happy or just too weird. I don’t think it felt overly juvenile, unlike The City of Ember, in which they would find a clue and agonize over it for pages when I knew what it meant immediately.

      OMG. I like Hoku’s name more now!

  2. ooh a mermaid dystopian..clever. Glad to see you enjoyed this so much and that it would appeal to all age groups. Great review!

  3. This sounds really out of the norm in a good way. Like, I haven’t read much about Above World, but your review intrigues me, especially because I know you don’t sugar coat, so the fact that you say this is a good mermaid book actually carries weight with me. I’ll have to check and see if my library has it.

  4. aLilLacey says:

    A younger read, fun! The cover is beautiful too. It’s a good thing the girl is 13 otherwise i would find their breathing aparatus just being called a necklace lame. Great review though. Thanks for doing this fun grade level.

    • Christina says:

      Yup! Yeah, I suppose they could have come up with something more clever than a necklace, but there’s something to be said for straightforwardness. This is a nice change of pace from all the really dark, older dystopias. Some dark stuff happens, but the tone stays pretty light.

  5. Gea Bridged says:

    Oh I love it! from the cover and the review, so well thank you for reviewing it! i am real thrilled with creatures under the sea. and Oh how I love little mermaids since kindergarten, even until now when my nieces are playing it all over again. this kind of book is intriguing in its different modern way of presenting how mermaids breath under water and trade tails. I love it!

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