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.
Right away when I started reading Above, I wondered if the writing style was going to be this way through out the entire book – because as I hit page two I was thinking “this reads like how a 7 year old talks” with either incomplete sentences or run on sentences and disjointed thoughts that jump hither and thither. It lacked the reading flow which would have been necessary for me to get past the unique writing style and enjoy the story beneath it. I can see what Leah Bobet was trying to accomplish here by choosing the form of dialect she did for her narrator but I don’t think it needed to be so extreme.
The environment and world that Leah Bobet built for her characters was very convincing in the challenges that the characters faced. You could see how a person raised away from the ‘normal’ world would come to view it having been ingrained with so many prejudices and fears against the people living there. Matthew was a resilient character that I came to respect, he wanted to help everyone but he also had his selfish motives as well, which I thought was a good balance. I did want more of a mental picture of him and found that I didn’t get that until nearly halfway through reading. He was focused so much of the time on Ariel that I think the only other characters I got a really good impression of visually were Atticus and Whisper.
I kept reading hoping that the characters and story would suck me in and send me racing through the pages. This unfortunately, didn’t happen. I don’t believe that was due to poor story building, just my personal inability to get comfortable with the narrative style. By one third of the way through the book I was really struggling to continue reading. Another point that bothered me quite a bit was I wondered, why was the girl, Ariel, featured on the cover when she wasn’t the main character. Personally, I feel that too many YA covers lately have some pretty imagine of a female’s back on the cover. I would have found it more appearing if Matthew would have been the cover since he barely described himself enough and Ariel was given more than ample physical description. Of course this might have been bias on my part as I really didn’t like Ariel’s character much at all. For most of the book, Matthew, is practically swooning over Ariel, whom he had taken into his home in ‘Safe’ about 8 months prior. She seemed unappreciative in so many of her actions, and the excuses he was making for her to people, I couldn’t help getting fed up with.
It is understanding that a story unfolds at it’s own pace, but I was starting to compare the story itself to the dialect. A few times as I would move from scene to scene I asked myself, ‘now what could be the point of this?’ – but I just wasn’t getting it. There were a few scenes that were pointless to me right up until the end when all the pieces come together. Due to this I didn’t feel the continuity through out was there.
By the time I was two thirds of the way through Above, I was still trying to like it and failing. *Beware spoiler here* –
as I mentioned I wasn’t fond of Ariel, but at this point BAM – the author throws out the token abusive ex boyfriend and her having run back to him after Matthew is gone for but a few hours, and I was just done, done I tell you. At that point I was officially disgusted with her. To me the abusive ex boyfriend angle was a big mistake and didn’t fit at all with her past behavior, the whole secrecy thing and “don’t you know you aren’t supposed to tell…” vibe Ariel had just didn’t match up with just some abusive ex boyfriend. I felt it was a poor pairing. Even though later on it’s redeemed somewhat with the fact that she’s actually schizophrenic and had been in another asylum type of facility where she received “therapy” – you don’t learn this until almost the very end, which by then the information to me fell flat as I’d already had my anger spurt with the story so many pages previous. *End spoiler*
I thought after completing this that I still don’t think the narrator’s speech would have been this extreme. My reasoning for this was due to a number of the ‘freaks’ that came to live in the underground sanctuary of ‘Safe’, were into their late teen years or older by the time they started living there, and a number of them were educated. As we learn our speech patterns from those we grow up around, I can’t see why there was a need for Matthew to speak the way he does. I’ve read a number of other books written in something other than plain English and never had the problem that I had with Above. There were sometimes instances where I had to go back and reread a few lines over just to make sure that I was understanding it correctly. The story itself I thought was interesting and unique with some definite lessons to be learned within it but ultimately, Above was not my cup of tea mostly because of the style it was written in.
Find Above by Leah Bobet: GOODREADS
*Advanced Reader Copy provided by Publisher for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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