Author: Kennedy Plumb
Publisher: IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association)
Genre: Middle Grade, Teens, YA, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Dystopian
Release Date: 19th November 2021
BLURB from Goodreads
Life in the Underground United States really freakin’ sucks.
No freedom, no sunlight, and the whole place smells like armpit.
That‘s what life has been like for Sam and his little sister Ella for the past eight years, ever since the Draft took their parents. So pretty much hell. But at least they had each other.
Until they didn’t.
As if Underground life couldn’t get any worse, Ella mysteriously goes missing without a trace. Sam must now embark on a dangerous journey through the unknowns of the Underground to find her.
But will he find her before it’s too late?
Will a brother’s love be enough to save her?
It was definitely the cover that first drew my attention to this book. The silvery grey metallic colour of the cover with the circular black landscape-esque cut out that shows the dark but vibrant blue representing one of the zones of the underground described in the book. I think this book cover should really make this book standout on a bookstore shelf. IT would certainly make me want to pick it up and learn more.
Then the blurb tells you just enough about the society and world they are living (suffering in) to encourage you to be eager to learn more.
The book goes back and forth between “before” Samuel & Ella were taken to C9 and the “present” where they are “now”. In the “before” Ella hasn’t even been born, and it is told through Samuels eyes from his point of view. He remembers clearly the day his father, Henry Carmichael left him and his then pregnant mother, Dr Annie Carmichael. Henry didn’t want to leave his family but in accordance with the Executive Order 153 all those over the 18 are to be conscripted and sent to fight in the war which is turning the United States to rubble, wreck and ruin.
Samuel realises something bad is about to happen as he hears his dad and pregnant mum talking quietly when they think he is asleep. Later his dad Henry has a serious talk with young Samuel, telling him that he is to look after his mum and the new baby girl when she arrives. Henry tells Samuel he is to be the man of the house when he has gone. When the men come to collect his father it’s clear his father doesn’t really want to go. One of the men tells Henry he has just 5 minutes to says his goodbyes. Henry hugs Sam, kisses Annie and stoops to hug her pregnant stomach, turning and hugging Sam again until he is abruptly told his time is up, and he is escorted away. Another man approaches Annie, informing her she has just 7 days to self report to Phoenix HQ or they will be back! Annie tries to reason with them telling them it took her 5 whole weeks to recover from her C-Section when she had Sam. The man simply shrugs and replies saying he doesn’t make the rules!
It’s in a flash-back to the “before C9” later in the book we discover that Annie goes into labour earlier than she expected with no one around to help her but Samuel. Luckily as Annie is a Dr she can instruct Samuel to do the emergency C-section she needs to save Ella’s life. Sadly, Annie dies, leaving Samuel with little baby Ella to care for. We then learn, in accordance with the Executive Order 153 they are taken into one of the underground zones. The one they end up in together is C9.
The book in the “present” is set around 8 years later after the sibling’s arrival at C9. Samuel really does keep his word to his parents to look after Ella as best as he can. When they first arrive at C9, those in charge try to separate the, taking Ella to a nursery to be cared for. Ella will not settle for anyone else other than her brother Samuel, so they have to allow him to care for her. Samuel and Ella share a room with two brothers, Teo and Eddie. Ella and Eddie are always teaming up to play pranks on their older brothers, and despite the language barrier the two sets of siblings soon find a way to teach each other words in each other’s native languages to communicate. When Ella and Eddie play a prank on the somewhat miserable guards and the whole of C9 is being punished it seems highly likely someone will turn her in. Before this can happen, Samuel who is no stranger to being punished admits that he is the guilty party despite him knowing and everyone else knowing it is Ella. Shockingly a decision to punish Ella in the place of Samuel who they see as a repeat offender is made. It hurts Samuel more, watching and hearing his younger sister whom he has always protected being lashed than if it were him being beaten.
When they pair are put in a punishment cell, Samuel ends up revealing the truth around exactly what happened when Ella was born. Shocked an upset as soon as the pair are released, Ella she runs off away from Samuel refusing to talk to him.
I really don’t want to reveal much more but it turns out Ella has been kidnapped, and with a little help from an old friend of his fathers, Samuel is released from C9 to go find his sister. The only information Samuel has is that the kidnapping is all part of a big plan by someone called Vegas and that his sister is probably in E2. Samuel meets up with a rather rag tag group of people who live outside the zones making deliveries to all the different zones. It takes some convincing but they eventually seem to accept Samuel into their group. Though infuriatingly for Samuel he is given a nickname as none of the group go by their real names anymore and he is now being referred to as “Pretty boy.” The others in the group are leader and driver Beardsley, then there’s a man named Red, and a young disabled boy called Ponyboy. The females in the group are Steele, Lala and Q and her faithful dog Luna. In an ironic twist it turns out that Samuel knows Lala’s sons from C9 the zone he “escaped” from.
This book covers some really difficult subjects, one in particular that really resembles real life to me is the way those with disabilities are treat. They are basically slaves to those in the Elite zones, and treat no better than animals really and sometimes are beaten for what can only be described as the amusement of the elite.
There really are some fantastic characters in this book, both on the “good guy” side and the “bad guy” side too. Each of the rag tag bunch of characters have their own stories, such as Lala wanting to find and reunite with her sons. I felt almost immediately attached and concerned about the welfare and lives of the main characters of Samuel & Ella Carmichael. Though I equally warmed to the characters of Q, Lala, Steele, Ponyboy and the others too.
I honestly adored this book and hated having to put it down, even to sleep! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am eagerly awaiting more, as the next book is definitely on my must read list already.
My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading this book were Wow! How could it end right there? Amazing book cover, brilliant book, I can't wait to read more!!
Summing up, this book has great characters, world building & plot too!! I highly recommend reading this one. What a fantastic book to finish up 2021 with!!