Friday, 1 May 2015


Title: Undertow
Author: Michael Buckley
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Fantasy
Publisher: HMH (Houghton Mifflin & Harcourt)
Release Date: 5th May 2015

BLURB from Goodreads
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.

FREE Sampler Links

It's the second year I have requested and been accepted to download the Buzz Books for YA Readers. It is a great way and a sneak peak well in advance for forthcoming titles. So as I said I downloaded this year's edition and worked my way through the sampler book and made a list of the excerpts I had enjoyed, ready to request them as they became available to request on Netgalley. The excerpt from Undertow really grabbed my attention and made me ask lots of questions as well as intriguing me as to what was coming out of the water and onto the beach on Coney Island. So to say I was looking forward to reading the whole book is a bit of an understatement!

I received and e-copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion and review. There are two covers that I  have seen for this book, the one I prefer the most is pictured above. The cover features the view of the pier and beach in Coney Island. Although the Pier is now deserted, it was once host to a thriving fun fair attraction, with water chutes, a rollercoaster and the big wheel. Now it stands unused, turning rusty and falling into disrepair. The tent city you can see on the beach, that seems to have taken over the majority of the beach, are the homes to the "Alpha". The Alpha is a collective name for the various races that come out from the sea and live on the beach.
So would this book cover make me want to pick it up from a book store shelf? I do find the cover attractive, with curiosity as to what/who is living in the tents. So I would certainly pick this one up in a book store.
There have been a few Alphas that have been integrated into human society, making friends and families and awaiting more "orders" from their fellow Alpha's, but no other orders ever came. So they continued to wait and wait. Then one day more Alpha's arrived on the beach. The initial Alpha's are being caught by the humans and they along with their families are being interned into special "camps". Some of these "original Alphas" have tried returning to their own race but are being shunned by them. So there's the humans and the Alpha with the original Alpha settlers stuck in the middle. This may sound complicated but everything is set out within the book really well, and snippets are revealed as the story unfolds. 
The main character is the daughter of a human Police officer Leonard Walker and one of the original Alpha settlers, Summer. Their daughter's is named Lyric, and suffers from horrible headaches that her and her mum have a rating system for. An F1 is a mild headache and the scale goes up to F5 and more. Lyric has always suffered with these migraines and the only things that seem to help are being by the beach and meditating or lying in a cool bath and meditating. The area that Lyric and her family lives in is right near the beach on Coney Island. Lyric attends the local high school, Hylan, and is one of the quieter students, and is happy to be so. Lyric has her best friend Bex Conrad, and Tito whose nickname is Shadow.
Bex lives with her mother Tammy and her mother's on off boyfriend Russell who is violent and during this book he turns his attentions to Bex too. Lyric often takes Bex over to her own home to stay over so Bex can escape the torment for a while. The story about Bex and her home situation runs all the way through the book, she has some tough decisions to make and then when she thinks she has finally found happiness, someone she dearly loves is ripped away from her. Then she discovers the whole truth about who Lyric & Summer are, which side of the battle will Bex stand on? 
So there is lots going on during this book, I could literally go on and on about it but I really do not want to reveal too many or any spoilers really as I want you to enjoy the revelations as they happen in the book. To describe the major plot within the book, I would liken to the racial wars of segregation from years gone by. This time the government have gotten together with the leaders of the Alpha and decided that a small group of Alpha should attend school and learn the ways and customs of humans as well as learning the language. Among the Alpha's chosen to attend Hylan High are Shadow - a nix, Luna - a sirena (like Lyric's mum summer is), and the Alpha Prince, called Fathom. 
A new principal is assigned to the school, a man named Mr Doyle. Mr Doyle strangely chooses Lyric to spend an hour a day with Prince Fathom, which opens Lyric up  to have to take the abuse from her classmates that are part of the "Niners" (a group who protest and sometimes attack the Alpha.) So Lyric is called "fish head lover" and told she should throw the fish heads back etc. 
Lyric's parents have been secretly planing to escape the "zone" where they live and "disappear" before they get too tangled up in the hostility. Many of their friends have been spirited away to a "special camp". Those that return are always stick thin, clothes hanging from their bodies like rags, all looking traumatized and shadows of their former selves. 
Sadly before they can try to escape they find themselves caught up in the whole "war" between the races. Mr Doyle knows much more about Lyric and her family than he initially lets on to Lyric. He in fact holds the very papers that could help Lyric and her family escape, but Lyric must perform the duties he sets her before he will let her leave. 
Tensions raise until all there is left is a battle to be fought, Who will win? Who will be lost in the fight? Which side will Lyric's family be on? 
Then just when you think the battle is between the humans of Coney Island and the Alpha's a third race of people enter the battle, the Russalka. Will the Russalka be the victors over the Alpha and the humans?
I loved the character of Lyric, she is a strong, young lady who finds herself caught up in a battle that shouldn't be hers. She learns she is a "half human-half Alpha" and she has to learn to deal with that, and find a compromise within herself as she can see both sides of the battle, but when it comes down to the battle it is revealed she has more traits of of the Alpha within her be discovered, and to learn how to use them. Prior to the battle Lyric has to stand up for her mother as she is on trial in front of her own race, as the Alpha believe Summer has chosen the "humans" over her own race. If found guilty she will die.
There's some great funny moments within the book too when Lyric and Fathom spend time together, and some cute, emotional moments as they become attracted to each other. However how can that ever work out when Fathom and Arcade (a sirena) are already matched to marry in the future?
So did I enjoy the book? I initially struggled as the book felt a little slow paced for my taste until I got up to the excerpt and then the story seemed to pick up momentum and kept me hooked all the way to the end. Would I recommend the book? Yes, it really is a great read. If like me you prefer a faster pace, stick with the first few chapters, they are necessary for the later plot and are well worth taking the patience to read. Would I want to read another book in this series? I suppose how this book finishes, the story could be left there. However when you have read and become attached to the characters within the book, like myself you will be wondering, What happened to all those trapped in the "Special Camp" Will Leonard, Summer, Lyric & Bex form their own happy family away from the "Zone", Where is Mr Doyle? Can anything else happen between Lyric & Fathom? In fact this is one spoiler I will give as it's easy to find out, that yes there is a Bk#2 called Raging Sea. It doesn't have a cover yet on Goodreads and there's no blurb there but after the questions Bk#1 left me I'm adding Raging Sea to my Want To Read Wishlist.
Would I read other books by this author? Being totally truthful it would depend on the genre and the subject matter, I would certainly take a closer look at books by Michael Buckley.

Once I got to the part used in the excerpt I was totally submerged (pardon the pun) into the story. I suppose it could be the end how this book finishes, having said that I would also love to read more about Lyric, Bex, and the captured Alpha and halfbloods interned in the camp at Texas. Some great comedy moments when Lyric is teaching Fathom how to read and also how to be more human. I also adored the scene where Lyric shouts at the Prime in defenseman of her mother. There's also the poignant scenes about Tito\Shadow 's memorial. There really is a lot happening in this book, as there is the more human domestic violence story too. There's also a bit of politics, and some conspiracy and blackmail going on with the military\school. I even ended up quite liking the conniving Mr Doyle. I'd really like to see more of Bonnie (who escorted Lyric to her meetings with Fathom) There's also what happened to Leonard (Lyrics dad) and Tammy (Bex mum) and the evil Russell.

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