Undertow by Michael Buckley is a young adult novel that I was so pleased to have discovered at Barnes and Noble during one lunchtime book shopping rendezvous. It’s the first book in a new dystopian trilogy which takes place on Coney Island and involves a race of Mermaids (this appeals to me on many levels). They set up a camp of tents in the area where the famous roller coaster once stood (as depicted on the beautiful cover). The government decides they should attend school with humans but just about everywhere has to be manned by police officers and military because a group of humans have banded together to form the Niners who commit violent crimes against the Alpha. Our main character, Lyric Walker is half human and half Alpha. Her mother was sent to the surface many years prior and she and her father are doing the best they can to blend in to protect Summer’s secret. I am surprised that I haven’t read any other blogger reviews or heard about it on BookTube and I think that is ultimately what piqued my interest even further.
While reading Undertow, I was equal parts fascinated and terrified with the state of Coney Island in this imagined future. Once the Alpha appeared on the surface with their feelings of superiority, they’re predictably unable to peacefully coexist with humans. There’s a nightly curfew imposed by the government and it’s completely unsafe to walk anywhere on your own. It’s even dangerous for kids to get to and from school and they’ve covered the classroom windows with brown paper so snipers don’t shoot the Alpha inside classrooms from atop other buildings. It’s been a while since I read a dystopian novel that felt different but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
One of the reasons I loved Undertow so much is because of the characters. Besides Lyric’s name (obviously she is half Alpha, how could anyone in this society with a name like Lyric not be?), all of the characters were believable and each had their own issues to overcome. Lyric and her family is very close-knit and not only because of the secret they’re hiding. Lyric’s mother Summer is Alpha and her father is a police officer. They’re always the first ones to offer Lyric’s best friend Bex a helping hand when her family situation gets out of control. I loved the protective nature that Lyric always exhibited for Bex and that instead of feeling helpless, she always felt responsible for changing things for Bex. And then there’s Fathom, Prince of the Alpha, who is stuck fighting daily battles in honor of his crazy father. Fathom and Lyric forge a relationship while Lyric teaches him during their daily sessions. The only character that I couldn’t and still haven’t figured out is Mr. Doyle, but I’m really looking forward to finding out more about him as the series continues!
Final Thoughts: Undertow by Michael Buckley is an original dystopian novel set on Coney Island after it has been invaded by a race of Mermaids called The Alpha. Lyric Walker, a half human, half Alpha hybrid bonds with the Alpha Prince Fathom and the pair try to make everyone see reason and realize that they might not be each other’s real threat. If you liked The Hunger Games I would definitely recommend checking this book out. The story is completely different but there are some very similar elements.
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. (via Goodreads)