Title: Above World
Author: Jenn Reece
May Contain Spoilers
Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.
But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.
After reading Dark Life by Kat Falls, I became fascinated by the idea of living in the ocean. When I saw Above World by Jenn Reese, I was chomping at the bit to read it. In this Middle Grade adventure, Aluna, a girl who lives in the ocean, must venture Above World to discover why the technology that allows her people to breathe underwater is failing. I loved the spunky Aluna, and I also thought that her best friend, Hoku, was a wonderful character, too. Both of them have to deal with very frightening situations, and as they face down death time and again, the thought of saving their people gives them the courage to continue on their journey.
When Aluna finds the body of one of her friends, she discovers that the elders are keeping a secret from the residents of her city – the breathing tech that allows the Kampii to live underwater is failing. Each Kampii has a bio-tech breathing necklace that keeps them from drowning. Several of the necklaces ceased functioning, and the elders, including Aluna’s father, have quickly covered up the resulting deaths, not wanting to start a panic. Instead of trying to discover why the necklaces are starting to fail, the elders are firmly denying that there is a problem. The Kampii in her city have kept themselves hidden from the Above World for generations, and they don’t want to have anything to do with the surface world. Aluna runs away from home, determined to save her people.
I loved the world building in this post-apocalyptic adventure. As the population swelled and the available land was consumed by growing numbers of people, new environments were exploited with the help of bio-technology. The Kampii, who are like mermaids, were allowed to live under the water with their necklaces. Centaurs were engineered to live in the desert, and Aviars were given wings so they could live on top of mountains. Disease swept through the human population, and chaos followed. Now the remaining life forms are at war, battling for control of the old technology.
Aluna is a strong, determined protagonist, and I liked her a lot. She is impulsive and stubborn, and these flaws work to get her out of many dicey situations. She isn’t able to give up, and and she can’t accept failure. That’s just not an option for her. The thought of quitting never occurs to her, even when she is standing up to very scary enemies that would have had me running, screaming, in the opposite direction. She is also self-reliant, which almost gets her, as well as her friends, killed.
I also loved the pacing of this novel. The reader is never given the opportunity to become bored. Aluna and Hoku meet one challenge after another, in rapid succession. They barely have a chance to catch their breath before they are thrown into danger again, which made it difficult to put the book down. Their race against time to save their people from drowning kept me on the edge of my seat. Both Aluna and Hoku had some major sacrifices to make, and they never hesitated to do whatever was necessary to save the Kampii. I completely bought that these two young kids could save their underwater city. Aluna is fierce and Hoku is clever, and together they make one heck of a team. I loved their interaction, and how they complimented each other. Where one was weak, the other was strong.
I can hardly wait to read Aluna and Hoku’s next adventure. Above World has a satisfying conclusion, and left me content with the thought that they had saved the world, for the time being, at least. There isn’t a huge, disappointing cliffhanger, just the sense that there are more conflicts to resolve in the near future. I hate cliffhanger endings, so this conclusion worked for me. I wasn’t all twitchy at the thought of Aluna and Hoku, frozen in time, facing an early demise, until the release of the next book.
Review copy provided by publisher