Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book review: 'Above' by Isla Morely

Above, by Isla Morely (Gallery Books, 3/4/14)

Blythe is a sixteen-year-old girl from the small town of Eudora, Kansas. She heads to the town picnic hoping to meet up with Arlo, a childhood friend whom she hopes will become her boyfriend. When he doesn’t show, she heads for home in a huff and on foot. The school librarian offers her a ride, which she accepts to her profound regret. The man is a survivalist who is convinced the end is near and abducts Blythe, imprisoning her in an abandoned missile silo so they can repopulate the world after the coming apocalypse. 

Her escape attempts fail, and Blythe struggles to maintain hope and hold onto her sanity, bearing a son in the process. When he is old enough, she must explain the world and their place in it. This proves especially difficult when their lives are upended and they come to understand the truth.

Above is an fascinating story, exploring difficult topics in an accessible way. Part abduction story and part speculative fiction, it is told in Blythe’s voice and skips years at a time, like a diary started and stopped again and again. Unlike in the novel Room, which recounts a young boy's life in captivity from his point of view, Blythe's son is not given a realized voice, and his character feels more two-dimensional than those of the adults. The missing years also give the narrative a glossed-over feel, leaving the reader wondering what happened and how Blythe coped during those times. When things change later in the book, the story picks up the pace and becomes both more interesting and satisfying. Can I just ask, why did the bad guy have to be a librarian??

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