I sink down farther, completely submerging myself. It’s down here where I feel the most safe, where the headaches retreat, where the roar of the water drowns out the thrum.
Author: Michael Buckley
Series: Undertow #1
Publication: May 5, 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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.
Wow. This book absolutely blew me away. I’d entered multiple giveaways for this before, and I was so excited when I received a copy. After finishing the book I can officially say that my excitement was not unwarranted. Undertow by Michael Buckley is absolutely amazing and I am proud to say that this book is on my shelf.
What first caught my eye was the cover, I noticed the Ferris Wheel and the encampment. When I read the synopsis I was even more intrigued, a group of aliens called Alphas on Coney Island? Count me in. This book pulled me into its own undertow (see what I did there?) with the very first sentence. It opens up to an environment of hostility and fear, and it was breathtaking. For those of you that don’t know, an undertow is the pull people feel when the waves of the ocean are receding. Just like that pull, this book grabbed me by the ankles and refused to let go until I hit the last page – and even then it wasn’t not over. I will dream about this book tonight, and probably for many nights to come. It ends off on a wicked cliff hanger, I hate cliffhangers, but this is one instance where it works. I want to, no, I need to see what will happen next.
Without giving away the entire book, I will explain some things about these Alpha. They arrived on the shore of Coney Island three years before this story takes place, which we learn through various flashbacks narrated by the main character Lyric Walker. According to her, there are four main kinds of Alpha. There are the Nix, they have sharp teeth and claws – I believe they get their name from our own mythological Nixies. Then there are the Ceto who are described as being quietly confident , they are the so-called “teachers” of the Alpha. There are also the Sirena, which you can see is a version of the word Siren. The Sirena show their emotions in the colorful scales that color their necks, and they look the most like humans. Lastly, there are the Triton. The Triton is the royal family, which our main character gets stuck dealing with. Though, I can say I absolutely love Fathom.
The main character, Lyric, is the driving force behind this novel. Her voice made me love everything, even the bad stuff. She is sarcastic, witty, vulnerable, and wont take crap from anyone even when her father instructs her to keep her head down. A main part of this story is Lyric’s migraines which she classifies with hurricane measurements of F1 through F5. She doesn’t let it rule her, though. In fact, the way she describes it made me laugh. I love the way she looks at things, even when she was sad and sobbing – the thoughts in her head brought a smile to my face. She was wonderful and exactly what I look for in a main character.
This book deals with some heavy themes very closely related to racism, actually, it isn’t even disguised racism. Three years after the initial wave, the government decides to integrate some of the Alpha at a local high school. I can’t possibly imagine what problems could arise, can you? Needless to say, there is lots of bullying, name calling, violence, and even murder. I won’t tell you who does what to who, but I can tell you that it made me cry. I would recommend this book for ages fifteen and up – possibly even older than that because of the mature themes. There is sex, rape, abuse, murder, and all sorts of other nasty things. It is wonderfully done though, and it doesn’t take away from the story – it only adds to it.
Overall, I want anyone who reads this post to read this book. This is hands down going to be a new favorite and a new obsession of mine. Well done Michael Buckley, well done.