Format: Hardcover | 376 pages
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA | Speculative Fiction
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.
UNDERTOW is the first book in the trilogy known as Undertow by new to me author Michael Buckley. 3 years ago, Lyric Walker watched with her mother and father as 30,000 beings known as Alphas, walked out of the ocean, and came ashore at Coney Island. They were feared by some and welcomed by others. As a 17-year old, Lyric, who suffers from severe and debilitating migraines, lives in a world where the Alpha's are sequestered to a rather large tent city surrounded by fences, and men with guns. All hell breaks loose when the school district decides to invite Alpha's to attend the local high school Lyric and her friends Becca and Shadow attend.
Coney Island turns into a militarized zone with Alpha's being restricted to the area where they came ashore. Doesn't keep the Alpha's from running wild at night while collecting human detritus and garbage to use. I think we all can agree that there was something different about Lyric's mother right from the start of the book. Ergo, there is also something different about Lyric which she keeps from her best friend Bex for most of the books. It isn't until Lyric is blackmailed into helping crown prince Fathom learn to read, that the realism of racism in this school and outside really hits the reader in the face.
As I am of that age, this scene and subsequent ones with armed guardsmen, police, and military, reminded me of the little black girl in the South who was escorted to and from school by National Guardsmen after the locals decided she wasn't entitled to go to school, nor welcomed to attend a white only school. Yes, there are a lot of rather interesting correlations between this story and real life history in this country. I do declare that I am okay with stating the historical aspects of racism in this country. I just wish those of us who don't follow that ugly road are allowed to not feel guilty about being white.
"And the biggest, meanest, shrillest of them all, Governor Bachman, is back in a fresh blue business suit and a brand-new megaphone."
One of the more ludicrous villains of UNDERTOW is Governor Pauline Bachman. Naturally, there are those who jump for joy at any attempt to besmirch or laugh at certain politicians. In this case, it's former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Hard for me to say that making fun of her is wrong since a whole bunch of comments that have come from her mouth are really ill timed, and wrong. In UNDERTOW, Bachman has no problem making an ass our of herself or showing how much of a racist she really is in front of the entire world. Her antics were comical at best. Fiction imitates life.
I have to say something. As a reviewer, I am totally OK with suspending disbelief in order to enjoy a book. I've done it so many times, I no longer even think about it unless I'm called out on it. So, when an author says that there's a race called Alpha's which consists of Nix, Ceto, Sirens, Selkies, and Mermaids, I am going to ignore those who say that is a statistical improbability. I guess those haters don't know the meaning of FICTION. I still believe in Atlantis, that should tell you all there is about my ability to daydream hours at a time.
Don't you just hate when a synopsis doesn't get certain facts straight? Example: The story's protagonist Lyric Walker is actually SEVENTEEN, not sixteen. Says so throughout the story. In fact, when a particularly breath taking moment happens, she outs herself for who she really is, and tells the entire world how old she is. Bless Buckley's little heart for using Coney Island as his setting! I can remember going there when I was a wee tyke and getting into so much trouble! I remember the fried clams, the Coney Island Hot Dogs, the Nachos and cheese, and the rides. Buckley uses all of this plus the hatred and distrust between human races. To me, this is factual. Italians and Irish have always distrusted the other. Same as the Chinese and Japanese.
One could say that my reading UNDERTOW now, is pure coincidence since the world is watching a really devastating migration from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia to Europe, America, and Australia. Not unlike the Alpha's, they are fleeing a homeland that is no longer welcoming to them, and are trying to find a safe place to raise their children.
I dare say that the final chapters of UNDERTOW were by far the best. I loved Lyric standing up for her mother. I loved that Buckley finally reveals why Lyric has been having so many migraines since she was a little child. I loved that Lyric doesn't run and hide behind anyone but does find a way to help the Alpha's when a major nemesis comes calling. I definitely am eager to read the sequel since Buckley left us with a pretty head slapping cliffhanger. I have watched District 9, and therefore I definitely get the idea of blending District 9 with The Outsiders.
Recommendation. HELLS YES! I recommend that you either borrow UNDERTOW from a friend, or a library, or if you have the means, purchase it! Well worth the time it takes to read the book.
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