Author: Jenn Reese
Series: Above World, book 1
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Dystopian
Published on: February 14, 2012
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge
Source: ARC from the DAC ARC Tour
Summary: 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.
I haven’t yet reviewed a whole lot of middle grade on the blog my friends, but you can expect that to change because I LOVE middle grade FIERCELY. There’s something so satisfying and incredible about kids essentially getting to be the smart, badass heroes and heroines for once while still managing to keep their youthful fascination and confidence intact. ABOVE WORLD is all of these things, my friends and more: fun, action-packed, and ingenious with main characters who are smart, brave, loyal, and determined. HOLLA!
ABOVE WORLD is a really clever story about a young girl, Aluna, who is essentially a mermaid, and her bff, Hoku, who set out together on a dangerous and secret (at first) quest to save their underwater community from an inexplicable and mysterious glitch in their breathing devices that is slowly killing them, one by one. In their journey to what they call the “Above World”–land–they discover that more dangers await them and their people, the Kampii, than they thought. You see, Earth is no longer populated solely by humans. In fact, we don’t meet any humans in this book at all. No, Earth is now the home of various species, I guess you would say, of human-animal or human-mythical creature hybrids: there are the Kampii, who are basically mermaids; Aviars, who are bird people; and Equians, who sound a lot like centaurs (there’s others, too, but these are the three we encounter most in ABOVE WORLD). All in all, danger and intrigue abound! DUN DUN DUN!!
I really liked Aluna and Hoku. They’re so different from one another but so clearly complementary. Aluna is brave almost to the point of recklessness, always stirring the pot and making trouble. She’s brave and fiery, and determined to do whatever it takes to save her people from harm. LOVED HER. And Hoku is so sweet and awkward and NERDY! He’s awesome. Also, he’s the brains: good with the computers and one of the only Kampii who can read. You know who they reminded me of as I was reading? Ariel and Flounder. I know, I know…mermaids and underwater things reminding you of mermaids and underwater things? BIG STRETCH, AMY. But it’s kind of legit. Their personalities are very similar. AND! I especially loved that they were just friends. I love me a good boy/girl FRIENDSHIP, and Aluna and Hoku’s was solid.
The world in this book was also really creative. I got such a kick out of the hybrid creatures! They each had separate cultures and lifestyles that were interesting in their own ways. For instance, the Kampii don’t get their tails until they turn 13, and the Aviars live in single-gender communities. Each group has their own government. It was all very inventive. I did have some lingering questions about the world, though. We got a little bit of the back story of what exactly caused these new races of creatures to populate the world, but there’s still lots of unanswered questions. But most of what niggled me about the world was a handful of things that I noticed and then promptly got annoyed with myself for noticing because they’re kind of irrelevant. Not important stuff to be sure. The BIG THINGS all get a thumbs up. But, you know, sometimes the little things just catch your eye.
I also have to shout out the pacing, because it was GREAT. Quick chapters, lots of action, no dullness whatsoever. STUFF is constantly going on in ABOVE WORLD, even when it’s small things, like Hoku meeting the Aviar Vice President and heir, Calli, or Aluna having a quiet moment with her new Equian friend, Dash. There was always a great sense of jeopardy as well, and that kept the tension at a peak. ‘Twas good stuff.
The bad guy, Fathom, was not as menacing as I thought he would be, but he was certainly psycho and disturbing, what with all of his weird mechanical parts and other assorted organic parts harvested from other creatures all attached to his body. His evil plan sounded like if The Island of Misfit Toys was not led by that lion, but rather a loony toon, power-hungry, masochistic meanie who WANTED to create more misfits so that he and his “perfected” army could take over the whole world and live forever…hmmm…maybe he WAS menacing. At any rate, he was only the junior bad guy; the BIG BADDIE is yet to come, and he doesn’t sound any better.
Guys, ABOVE WORLD was all of the things I LOVE about middle grade. It had adventure, tension, great characters, sweet little tweenie crushes, and lots of awesome kids being awesome. We’re set up for some GREAT drama to come (the end was full of THINGS, and the last two chapters really set the stage for juicy stuff). There was CUTE ANIMAL pet. Aluna and Hoku were likable, fun, and willing to go to great lengths to do what they think is right. ABOVE WORLD was a fun, engaging start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to more!