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Book Review: Dark Life by Kat Falls (Series, #1) (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

January 12, 2012 11 comments

Glowing jellyfish against blue background.Summary:
Ty was the first person born subsea.  His family are settlers on the bottom of the ocean, a new venture after global warming caused the Rising of the seas.  Ty loves his life subsea and hates Topside.  One day while adventuring around in the dark level of subsea, he stumbles upon a submarine and a Topside girl looking for her long-lost older brother.  Helping her challenges everything Ty believes in.

Review:
This is one of those rare YA books that gives me renewed hope for the genre.  There are no stupid love triangles. The adults are intelligent and good parents.  There are bigger worries than who you’re taking to prom.  There’s adventure but no gratuitous violence.  Romance but in a healthy way.  Basically, it’s everything you’d hope for in a YA book.  I’d gladly hand this to any teen or preteen looking for a good read and feel happy in doing so too.

The post-apocalyptic setting is unique, intelligent, well thought-out, and supported by science.  Creating a new American frontier under the ocean is delightful, and Falls draws on the American pioneer experience in cute, tongue-in-cheek ways.  For instance, the settler kids call their parents “Ma” and “Pa.”  They earn their acres by successfully farming them for 5 years (a common time-frame in the old west).  Plus, the world is different beyond subsea as well, reflecting drastic changes that would occur with such a huge change in the world.  There are people called “floaters” who live in houseboats.  Those who still live on land live in huge skyscrapers, and everyone sends their kids to boarding schools.  Perhaps most interestingly is the fact that ever since the falling of the land into the ocean the US has been under “emergency law.”  A harrowing possibility to any astute YA reader today.

Ty and Gemma are adventurous and intelligent yet still flawed in their own ways.  Gemma can be too impulsive, Ty too cautious.  This is naturally part of what makes them a good potential couple.  They balance each other.  Similarly, Ty’s parents are smart and caring, yet still capable of being wrong sometimes, even though well-intentioned.  They’re an example of the type of parent we hope most kids will have.  In contrast, Gemma is an orphan with an evil boarding school mistress to provide an adult for kid to hate.

The plot is deliciously complex and for once I actually did not guess the ending.  It left me surprised and happy simultaneously.  Falls does not take the easy way, but she also doesn’t use any lame deus ex machinas.

I feel my review is not doing this book justice.  Suffice to say it is a richly complex world she has created, filled with characters that are worthy of being looked up to but with interesting scifi elements to keep the interest level high.  I found myself never wanting to leave the subsea world and sort of wishing living subsea was an option in real life.

Overall, I recommend this to fans of YA scifi, but also to anyone with a curiosity about what it might be like to live on the bottom of the ocean as a new pioneer.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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