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I Belong

Early Review: Undercurrent by Paul E. Blackwell


AuthorPaul E.  Blackwell

Genre: YA Thriller

Series: N/A

Publication Date: July 23, 2013

Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062123513 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062123510 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Anjelica


In this suspenseful teen thriller with a touch of the otherworldly, perfect for fans of Neal Shusterman, a boy goes over a waterfall and wakes up to find himself in a twisted version of the life he knew.

A shadowy figure. An intense roar. The sensation of falling—fast.

That’s all Callum Harris remembers from his tumble over the waterfall. But when he wakes up in a hospital bed and finds his best friend trying to kill him, Callum knows something is seriously wrong. Unfortunately for him, the mysteries are just getting started.

Why are his parents acting like he’s some big sports star all of a sudden? And why are all the buildings in town more run-down than Callum remembers? Worst of all…what happened to Callum’s brother? Either Callum has gone seriously crazy or something happened when he went over the falls. Something impossible. Callum needs answers, and now. Because in this twisted new version of the life Callum knew, his former best friend isn’t the only one who wants to see him dead.

Filled with mind-bending suspense and unsettling thrills, Undercurrent is a grippingly paced teen debut that will pull you under and never let go.

Quick & Dirty: Cal Harris was only trying to set an example and make a point, instead he ends up in a three day coma and finally waking up is just the beginning of his nightmare.

Opening Sentence: A hundred and twenty gallons of water roar over Crystal Falls every second, it says on the plaques and in every pamphlet in town.

Excerpt: No


I enjoy reading thrillers like this one. The ending might be just a tad predictable and the plot may be just a smidge over done, but even with played out plots like this one, I enjoy finding just the few little things that make it stand out.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t really find anything to really stand out in Undercurrent.

Cal, or Callum, as he prefers to be called, goes through a near-death experience that leaves him feeling completely out of sorts when he wakes up from a coma. It begins with subtle things like strangers acting more aggressively than necessary, his brother not visiting him in the hospital, his once best friend trying to kill him, that sort of thing. Literally, as soon as these first few scenes played out I pretty much knew exactly what I was in for throughout the rest of the book. Now, I said I like finding the unique things in common stories but Undercurrent pretty much had everything I would expect when characters are trying to “re-discover” their world. The sceevy guy is having an affair with an important town figure. The good kid becomes a bully. The hot chick wants the dork who used to be horrible at sports but now finds himself the star of the football team. Yeah. Seen it. Know it. Don’t need it again.

As predictable as it all was, I will credit Blackwell with keeping certain events just elusive enough that I wanted to keep reading. What’s up with the science teacher? Will the guy get the girl? Who is this dude in the sweatshirt that keeps popping up everywhere? Will Cal ever get his dog to love him the way she did before his accident?

I had my strong suspicions, most of which ended up right, but I had to keep reading to know for sure. I think that’s where Blackwell did the best work. There was just enough happening that I wanted and needed to see all the loose strings come together. However, with all that enticement, I felt like some of the questions were never answered at all. It isn’t a situation where he gives something of an ending to a situation and the rest is left for our imaginations. No, there are some blatant gaping loose ends.

On the other hand, Blackwell did a really great job with the back stories of some of the characters which he presented as flash-backs. I really like when a story goes smoothly from a really important memory back to the present without giving away why the memory was important at that moment or breaking the forward flow of the story. It’s an added bonus when more of the memory is added as the story progresses, something Blackwell did quite well.

Overall, I enjoyed the idea of the story. It needs some depth added to a few of the characters and maybe a less predictable twist. But, I will say it was well written and likeable enough. I just felt like I’d read it at least a dozen times before which was very disappointing.

Notable Scene:

“On the bridge,” I say, not that it could be any more obvious. “Just now. What did you just drop into the falls?”

Mr. Schroeder looks at me while the rain bounces off his jacket- and I am probably as wet and cold as when they pulled me out of the river. “It was a message,” he tells me wearily. “saying I was on my way.” He pulls the little black box out again, which now has a solid green light on it. “And according to this, the message was delivered.”

FTC Advisory: Harper Collins provided me with a copy of Undercurrent. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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