Author: Leah Bobet
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: April 1, 2012
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
ISBN-10: 0545296706 (Scholastic)
ISBN-13: 978-0545296700 (Scholastic)
Reviewed by: Kristie
Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her blonde hair shining and her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above–like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.
But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home–not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.
Quick & Dirty: Unfortunately, disjointed exposition distracts from the potential of a beautiful story.
Opening Sentence: My last supply duty before Sanctuary Night, I get home and Atticus is waiting.
Safe is an underground sanctuary where people who can’t fit in Above go to feel Safe. Everyone who lives in Safe has an ability of some kind or another. Matthew is a Teller, he has the ability to remember the stories of those who come to Safe and can create artwork with the tales. Matthew is also “different” but he can fit in Above. He was born in Safe and has only ventured Above a few times in his life. He has been taught to be afraid of the world and the people that inhabit Above.
Matthew finds Ariel hiding in the tunnels on one of his ventures to go above ground. He takes it upon himself to take care of her and make sure she stays safe. When Ariel is upset she grows bee’s wings and she gets upset a lot. There are a lot of discarded wings decorating their room in Safe. She can also shrink into the size of a bee. Matthew is in love with Ariel but she has been severely hurt in her life and is very skittish and shy towards people. Ariel runs away and when Matthew goes to find her he is confronted by Corner, an exiled member who once lived in Safe.
Sanctuary Night is the night where everyone who lives in Safe swears fealty and pitches in to the well-being of Safe. Right before the festivity is to begin, Matthew goes to find the leader Atticus. Atticus is killed by Corner when he decides to take over Safe and attacks everyone within its’ shadow army. Matthew, Ariel and a few survivors are forced Above to get away from the Shadows. Matthew and Ariel make it to one of the Safe houses that have been pre-arranged in case Safe was attacked. Matthew has to learn to Pass Above while trying to find other survivors of Safe all the while trying to make sure Ariel stays out of trouble. While Above Matthew learns the history of Safe and its inhabitants along with Ariel’s past.
Above is told purely from Matthews’ viewpoint. He mentions that this is his memoire of what happened with Safe and his love of Ariel. Matthew is uneducated and the story reflects this. The writing style is perfect for Matthew but it is very distracting and at times it is difficult to follow. There are words that are missing and words that are made into proper nouns that are just used over and over again in one sentence. I like artistic writing sometimes but I had a hard time following along with the story. I kept having to reread sentences and paragraphs trying to figure out what the author meant by using a certain word.
Some examples of the writing style:
*“That’s when you saw her change,” I say, because I know that look from Tales, the kind where people stare five feet into the distance for the Telling and you need to help to Tell them, like a hand light on the curve of the back.
*I made it to the bathroom before I sick up.
*I can’t tell if he’s breathing, if he’s going to ghosts.
*My heart’s going like a subway train, and I understand for the first time, real down deep, why Whisper’s pa and the Whitecoats and the girls in General Population were so sore scared of ghosts.
Matthew is a sympathetic character. I had the hardest time caring for him in the beginning of the book but by the ending I did sympathize with his situation. This potentially beautiful story did come out to a degree in the end but I was a bit saddened by the closure of the story.
Above is one of those novels that you are either going to love or hate. If you enjoy a book that really makes you decipher the words then you will enjoy Above, unfortunately for me it was a bit off putting. In the end, Above, has elements of a beautiful heartbreaking story about the loss of love and home and the fight to regain a semblance of safety.
The first knock is quiet. It’s a knock like someone who’s little, who don’t belong. Who’s Freak? Her dead hand and that’s all you can do?
The quiet laughs like teasing. Freakfreakfreak.
Bang bang bang I knock the second time, the echo jumping my heart as it finds every corner of the empty hall. I am coming, this echo says, big as a Beast in the dark. I am here.
It ain’t him who opens the door.
My fists go loose without me telling, and for a minute I can’t see, can’t see nothing for the bright of her eyes.
“Matthew,” she shapes, not even talking, and her face is sour white. Her cheek is sickly purple, bruise rising like a stain, and it wasn’t before. She’s red and purple and red even through normal eyes, through eyes that aren’t stained like Atticus’s with rage. Her mouth opens in a surprised little O: You came back. And something else. Something broken-backed and scared.
“I’m taking you home,” is all I tell her, and then I hear moving somewhere behind.
She looks back over her shoulder, hair whipping to and fro, and for a second the red clears and it’s oh god bee’s-wings, candle flame, everything good and clean and sweet in the world touching gentle on my eyes and nose and lips. Then she looks back at me with red-lined eyes and a tight-lined face and it’s gone, that thing that lights without burning, that thing that makes me want to touch her cheek soft nighttimes. She lowers her chin even more than it’s tilted down. Hiding.
She opens her mouth, thin and careful, and I know she’s gonna say no.
FTC Advisory: Scholastic provided me with a copy of Above. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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