I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 5th 2015
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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.
Girl meets boy, boy is a creature from the deep blue sea. Lyric Walker is your average thirteen year old who lives in Coney Island until one day the world stops being average. In three years the world has been transformed, and our question of what lurks in the deep blue sea are answered. A group of humanoid creatures that call themselves Alphas have appeared on the shore line without any warning. What do the Alphas want, why are they here? Lyric is blackmailed into forming a tentative friendship with an Alpha boy: one who could be her undoing.
Fathom is part of a beta program enforced by a government he doesn’t understand or respect. He is forced to live on the shore line like an animal, and is now going to high school with the inferior human children. He faces xenophobia, racism, hate and the power of a single human girl who dares to stand up to him. Can they overcome their differences to become friends or possibly more? Will the secrets that the Alphas are hiding break any peace they have developed with the humans?
There’s a far greater enemy on the horizon, but the only way to win this battle is if humans and Alphas can put aside their differences..
Lyric and Fathom are forced together when the government sets up a new experimental program at local high school. The integration program is meant to indoctrinate young Alphas into the human world, but inevitably it is faced with hate groups, fearful parents, media speculation and a particularly fanatical governor. The school becomes the epicenter of hate, fear and violence fostered from a confrontation between soldiers and the Alphas three years before. The spark for change has been lit and the reader is taken along for the ride.
The Alphas are not sexy, they are not Hollywood material, and they certainly aren’t like us. Their society is built on honor and tough love – something that would be necessary if you lived in a turbulent sea infested with creatures that would eat you without a second thought. The Alphas look like sea creatures and have a strange culture fraught with violence. If we were to stumble upon an humanoid race from the sea, we probably wouldn’t find them attractive in the standard sense which is why I thoroughly enjoyed Undertow. Alphas are covered in spikes, scales, gills and barnacles. The skin ranges from bronzed to almost transparent with softness we are familiar with to slimy.
Undertow is a thinly veiled look at racism – highlighting the hodgepodge that is Coney Island cultural residents and underlining the depths of human conviction that different is not always welcome. It was fascinating to delve into a world where a new race of humanoids is regulated by the military and feared by the populace purely on the basis of origins and appearance. A young reader learns that although on the outside we look different; the insides are still very much alike.
Lyric was a selfish and often whined when it wasn’t appropriate. She repeatedly complained she was new to the Alpha world, giving off the aura that she wasn’t fully aware of the dangers she faced. Her lack of responsibility for not telling her best friend her secret was selfish, but made her character fit within the context of a teenager in a bad situation. My only reason for not making this a 5 star review is that the word “sick” was overused in the first few sentences, and Lyric repeatedly disrespects Arcades relationship with Fathom.
It will be interesting to see how Arcade and Lyric patch things up in book two, and how some of the larger struggles the characters have faced are rectified. The reader is in for a lot of twists, turns and deviations from the expected which makes this book incredibly hard to put down.
This book would appeal to readers who enjoy young adult romance, paranormal, mystery, action and anyone looking for a break from the ever popular vampire/werewolf/angel fad that has overtake YA Literature these days.