Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Undertow by Michael Buckley

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.

At first, I wasn't too sure if I should read this book or not since YA books about mermaids don't usually do it for me, but I sensed there was something here worth exploring and I was right.

In Undertow, thousands of merpeople have landed on Coney Island, and as the years pass, people become more hostile towards the Alphas. When a program is introduced to integrate the Alphas to human society, a lot of people fight back and rally against it. The violence against the Alpha and the people who try to help them increases. However, a bigger threat is coming and unless the Alphas and the humans works together, both their civilizations can be destroyed.

To be honest, during the first 45% of the book, I wasn't really feeling it. Yes, you were dropped into the middle of the conflict already, but I didn't feel drawn to anything. Plus, I'm not a fan of the hate-at-first-sight love trope, which is how Lyric and Fathom's love story started out. I was actually worried at one point that perhaps my problem really was with mermaids and no plot was going to satisfy me.

Slowly but surely, however, things started to turn around and I found myself hooked. It was really the anger I felt towards the bigots that strengthened my feelings towards the main characters and the Alphas. The scenes in the book were reminiscent to what I've read about what happened when African Americans were integrated into the American school system. I have no tolerance for bigotry so you can imagine how livid I was. I was particularly angered by the politician who was front and center in the hate campaign. My anger towards her rivals my anger towards Dolores Umbridge. It was actually a terrible idea for me to read this book before going to bed because I was too hyped up to fall asleep.

Anyway, from there, I started really getting into the story. I liked the idea of the Alpha Nation and their castes and clans. I also liked their customs. They were strange, but at the same time, not entirely unexpected for a warrior nation. It's definitely a good base for an awesome story.

I also started to like Lyric and Fathom's love story as well, which is quite interesting because usually, when I dislike a relationship at the start of the book, my opinion doesn't change at all over the course of the book. I mean, I still wasn't completely sold on Lyric herself by the end of the book, mostly because there were times when I felt she needed to toughen up, or at least be quicker to react in a crisis, but seeing as how I didn't despise her by the end of the book, I foretell good things about the next book in the series. It also helped, of course, that by the second half of the book, it was more of a forbidden love thing already, which I always enjoy.

Overall, I thought this was a great book, with definite movie potential. I wasn't too pleased with the beginning, but based on the strength of the rest of the book, I say, you should read this one, even if you don't always like books about mermaids.

Thanks to NetGalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for the e-ARC.


  1. It's action-packed.
  2. You really come to care about the characters.
  3. It's an interesting take on merpeople. 


  1. The first part of the story may not get your attention right away. 


  1. You like mermaid stories.
  2. You like stories about forbidden love.
  3. You like stories that are dark and action-packed. 




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