Recommended for ages 13+
Set in present-day Coney Island, Undertow presents us with a New York under siege. An aquatic warrior race, The Alpha, has arrived on the beach, and despite constant skirmishes with the police, military, and the local populace, they’re camping out on Coney Island beach. A tense agreement has the Alpha’s teenage children attending the local high school, causing riots, protests, and tension. Coney Island is a war zone. In the middle of this is Lyric Walker, a high school student with secrets of her own. When she’s chosen to help the Alpha prince assimilate, she never expects to develop feelings for him – or powder keg this will set off.
The first thing that caught me about Undertow was this amazing cover. Look at this artwork – if you’re a New Yorker, like me, seeing a refugee camp sprout up with a broken down Demo’s Wonder Wheel and a busted Cyclone in the background is already reason enough to pick this book up, but this cover is gorgeous, eerie, and demands your attention.
The plot reads like District 9 meets Escape from New York, with a dash of romance thrown in. I couldn’t put this book down. I like Michael Buckley’s writing to begin with- I enjoyed The Sisters Grimm and the N.E.R.D.S. series, so I was happy to jump into another one of his worlds. I’m so glad I did. Mr. Buckley creates a deep, multilayered narrative with complex characters and motivations. We’ve got a warrior race reduced to living in squalor on the beaches of Coney Island while humans join street gangs to answer the perceived threat in their own vigilante fashion. Why are they here? If they’re a warrior race, where’s the invasion? Are they playing at something? Added subplots include a domestic violence story, a principal with his own agenda, and a governor who’s willing to hand the city over to street justice, to create an intense story that will leave you not-so-patiently waiting for the sequel.
Make this a beach read this summer – but just keep an eye on the water while you read.