The Abyss Surrounds Us

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Abyss Surrounds Us Book Poster Image
Futuristic pirates and sea monsters offer high-seas thrills.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Abyss Surrounds Us imagines a future where rising seas have reshaped the continent. This could prompt discussion and further research about climate change.

Positive Messages

Every conflict has at least two sides. In a war, neither side is totally free from guilt. The story explores themes of revenge, dependence, and loyalty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Compassionate, tough, and dedicated, Cas Leung is a conscientious trainer at the start of the novel, willing to do anything to protect her charge. When she's later forced to train Bao, she's caught between caring for him and wanting to sabotage the training. She's forced to make difficult choices that will have repercussions for people she cares deeply about.

Violence

Several violent scenes, the most disturbing of which happens when a supporting character is fed to a sea monster. Cas is treated roughly as a captive aboard the Minnow. Battle scenes result in the deaths of innocents.

Sex

Cassandra is attracted to a girl named Swift. They flirt, cuddle while bunking together, and share a kiss.

Language

The language in The Abyss Surrounds Us proves saltier than one might expect. "F--k" is employed five or six times. Variations of "s--t" appear more than a dozen times. "Bitch," "bastard," "hell," "damn," "pissed," and exclamations of "Jesus" are used occasionally.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Abyss Surrounds Us is a futuristic pirate adventure in which giant genetically engineered sea monsters are trained to attack menacing vessels. Violent scenes includes naval battles in which innocents are killed, there's hand-to-hand combat, and a supporting character is fed to a sea monster. The language is saltier than some readers may be prepared for, with semi-frequent uses of "f--k" and "s--t." "Bitch," "bastard," "hell," "damn," "pissed," and exclamations of "Jesus" are used occasionally. Sexual content is limited to some cuddling and a kiss.

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What's the story?

Cassandra Leung was raised to train Reckoners, genetically engineered sea monsters that protect travelers on the NeoPacific from marauding pirates. When she's captured by pirate queen Santa Elena, Cas is dismayed to learn that she's expected to train Bao, a Reckoner pup destined to upset the balance of power. As Bao grows bigger and more dangerous, Cas must decided where her true allegiances lie, especially when it comes to Swift, a fellow shipmate who will be killed if Cas tries to sabotage the mission.

Is it any good?

An unusual premise and a distinctive setting distinguish this high-seas adventure full of futuristic pirates and genetically engineered sea monsters. THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US might have an awkward title, but debut novelist Emily Skrutskie is mostly sure-footed as she finds a new wrinkle on the old dragon-training clichés. The characters are edgy without being unbelievable, and Cas's developing relationship with Swift proves intriguingly complex. There's a vicious twist in the tale, though, which will propel fans of sci-fi adventure to the next volume of this promising saga.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about pirates. Why are stories about them so popular? How has the portrayal of pirates changed over the centuries?

  • What do you think about the violence in The Abysss Surrounds Us? Is it necessary to the story?

  • The Abyss Surrounds Us imagines a future where rising seas have reshaped the continents. Do you think climate change will reshape coastlines and disrupt shipping and travel?

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