I saw this book and I thought the cover was beautiful and intriguing. I enjoy discovering new Canadian authors and the depiction of a woman with beautiful wings looking out at the Toronto cityscape at night prepared me for a read that would intertwine a fantastical world with a city I have visited often. If I wasn’t already excited, the cover also includes praise from the 2011 Evergreen winner Emma Donoghue (Room) who writes “Above pulls off that rare trick of being convincing and utterly magical at the same time.” Thus, I went into this read with high hopes….
An extraordinary debut urban fantasy about dangers outside and in.
Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above—like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.
But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home—not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.
ABOVE is the debut of an amazing new voice.
I really wanted to like this novel. The story is told from the perspective of Matthew who describes himself as a monster or freak, with feet like lion claws and scales like fish. He was born underground in a Sanctuary called Safe and has the role of Teller for his community. He listens, memorizes and tells the stories about the members of Safe. Thus, we see the story through his perspective and after Safe is invaded by horrific creatures that try to destroy the only home he has known Matthew is forced to the world above. Leah Bobet does a great job of building character development through Matthews voice, similar to how Emma Donoghue told the story of Room through the perspective of 5 year-old Jack who knows the world only through the room he is born in. Matthew tells the stories of the various members of Safe and how they came together, including Ariel a girl with bee wings he found broken and abused in the sewers.
In Above Bobet combines a depressing and realistic look at what life might be like for those who are born or inflicted with abnormalities, such as those of the fantastical nature and even those that have been seen to threaten societal norms such as being mixed gender. How would society and scientists treat these people if they were discovered? History shows that we have not been kind, and Above includes these hard to read topics which made it sad to read at times.
Lastly, the mystery of the story takes an interesting spin as you discover who invaded Safe and why. The moral code of Matthew`s character is challenged throughout the story and in the end the story of Above sends out the message of the butterfly effect, where one action can completely change the course of events to come.
I give it 4 out of 5