Above by Leah Bobet
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release date: April 1, 2012
Source: Review copy by Scholastic Canada
Reviewed by: Tynga
A gorgeous urban fantasy about dangers outside and in.
Matthew has always lived in Safe, a community hidden far beneath the pipes and tunnels of the city Above. The residents fled to Safe years before to escape the Whitecoats and their cruel experiments, and now Matthew is responsible for both the keeping of Safe’s stories and for Ariel—a golden-haired shapeshifter, and the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.
But one horrifying night, an old enemy murders Safe’s founder, Atticus, and the community is taken over by an army of shadows. Only Matthew, Ariel, and a handful of friends escape Above. Now they not only have to survive in a sunlit world they barely know, but they must unravel the mystery of the shadows’ fury and Atticus’s death. It’s up to Matthew to find a way to remake Safe—not just for himself and his family, but for Ariel, who’s again faced with the life she fled, and who needs him more than ever before.
An urban fantasy and a love story, Above is the breathtaking debut of an extraordinary new voice.
Imagine a world with monsters with strange powers locked in our mental institutions to protect the public and study them. Now imagine those monsters broke free and lived in the sewers under your city. Well, with Above you don’t have to imagine because it’s exactly what you get.. from the monsters’ perspective.
Above is another book I have mix feelings for. Leah Bobet is a Canadian debut author, Above is a dystopian book and it has this insanely pretty cover. From the moment I heard of it, I’ve been wanting to read it. Yet when I started reading, I quickly realized in wasn’t quite for me.
The writing is very peculiar, which isn’t a bad thing, I mean I appreciate original writing style as much as the next person, but I found that Bobet’s particular style didn’t work for me. The style really confused me from the get go, and add to that the fact that we don’t know the main character’s genre or name until page 31 and I left like, I too, was lost in a dark sewer tunnel. As you can see Above and I didn’t start on the right foot, but I kept on reading because I really wanted to like the book!
As I read on, I got used to the writing style and it improved my enjoyment on the book. Leah imagined a fantastic world, close enough to ours to be believable but with so much more under the surface, quite literally. Some people are born with defect such has fish gills and lion feet, other develop into weird creatures with time. For example, crab arms or powers over electricity or even more subtle gifts like ghost talking. Those people were feared an locked away, but some escaped and formed a Safe community underground, surviving and protecting each other as best as they could, living with an immense fear of Above.
The idea is that much more original because the story is told from the monster’s perspective. It’s really a great story about discrimination, fear, but also courage, strength and love. It’s about a small group of people trying to overcome challenges, fighting for safety in a world that wants the shun them out, forget they ever existed.
Bobet created a wide spectrum of characters, old and young, born Above and in Safe, male and female, all with different imperfections, providing an array of personalities among its rank. While I appreciated the diversity, I didn’t feel any connection with any of them, which really hit my enjoyment of the novel. Matthew and Ariel, the two main characters, were both weird and I had a hard time understanding their decisions. It’s evident they care for each other, but their relationship is very awkward. It’s beautiful in a way, but it wasn’t for me.
The plot line was good enough. The people from Safe were sent running when their Sanctuary was invaded by monsters worst than them and they fought as best as they could from Above, a world they don’t know, to retrieve their haven and uncover the mystery being those terrifying creatures.
What I liked the most about this novel is the butterfly effect Leah Bobet sneakily included in the book. She showed that every decision the characters make, even the ones that seem insignificant, have a huge effect on their own future, but also on everyone around them. The conclusion being the apogee of the whole concept.
This book is definitely worth a shot, and just because some aspect didn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Above had a great concept and very good morals to share. I would say read the excerpt and see for yourself if Above is a book that might work for you =)