Thursday, March 6, 2014

Above by Isla Morley (Review)

(This is a review of an electronic advanced reader copy provided by Netgalley.)

Spoilers:  I am going to be addressing some major plot points and issues, so please do not continue reading this review.

     This books is not Isla Morley's first novel, and that definitely shows: the writing is good, often quite lovely, in fact, and she is a skilled storyteller. I was immediately taken in by the voice of Blythe Hallowell, a young 16 year old Kansan who is abducted by a local librarian and survivalist, named Dobbs.  The story begins in media res, with Blythe fighting against him, and being locked in a very scary dark place.

But the problems, or maybe they are holes in the plot, also start immediately. I grew up in the 1980s. I thought maybe this was the 80s, even the 50s, with its lack of cell phones and internet, and a wholesome town picnic (the Horse Thieves Picnic) that a teenage girl is excited to be attending to meet up with her suitor.  But you find out she is being hidden away in an emptied missile silo. This does not make sense for either of those time periods. It must be after the 1990s. This caused a lot of problems for me thought the book. Does Dobbs not have access to the internet down in the silo/fallout shelter he's created? He saves everything (important historic documents, etc.) on microfiche instead of on  hard drive or disc, or even hard printed copies? This seems antiquated and not in line with the time period. I understand if an actual disaster like nuclear war or an electromagnetic pulse destroyed communications, but I would think those items would be protected on a computer in a silo.

I also feel as if there would be some way for Dobbs to communicate the actual situation "above" to Blythe, to at least make her believe she is actually safer below than above. Obviously, she does not take his word for anything, and he obviously is smart enough to know this: so why not prove it to her, by taking her outside, and releasing her from the mythology of the "old" above?

Aside from some major problems with the plot, the story is gripping and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Blythe's voice is fairly authentic, and the situations that present themselves in the silo are far from boring: there are moral dilemmas galore for poor Blythe, and she handles them in a realistic way (ie. normal for a teenage girl from a stable home). I shed some tears a few times. 

Prepare yourself for this novel, it is quite original.  I'd be interested to read a sequel to this one! Or anything else by this author.

4 stars

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