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Undertow: Undertow Trilogy, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Undertow: Undertow Trilogy, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Invasion of sea dwellers fuels gripping sci-fi thriller.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Undertow offers an opportunity to reflect on current immigration policies around the world and how refugees are treated.

Positive Messages

People from different cultures can find common bonds in times of adversity. Discrimination against minorities is wrong.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although she chafes under her parents' overprotective caution, Lyric Walker understands that they are constantly in grave danger. She tries her best to keep a low profile, but her high spirits and sense of justice sometimes cause her to stand up for herself or others. Over the course of the story, she learns to be more honest with her family and friends and that she has a wild side to her personality that needs to be acknowledged.

Violence

Undertow has violent scenes, but most are not graphic in their depiction of bloodshed. The Alpha are quick to fight, so there are many scenes of hand-to-hand combatand Fathom usually arrives at school bruised and beaten. One of Lyric's close friends is killed. Bex's stepfather assaults her mother when he's drunk.

Sex

Lyric follows a boyfriend up to a roof, intending to have sex for the first time, but she changes her mind when he disrespects her. Lyric and Fathom are attracted to each other and are caught on camera sharing a steamy embrace.

Language

"Hell" and "damn" are each used less than a dozen times.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Although Lyric doesn't currently use alcohol or drugs, it's hinted that she did so when she was younger and more irresponsible. Bex's stepfather gets drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Undertow is a gripping, dystopian science-fiction thriller about a race of sea dwellers, the Alpha, taking up residence on the shores of Coney Island. It's the first young-adult novel by popular middle-grade writer Michael Buckley (The Sisters Grimm). There are a number of violent scenes, including a climactic battle against a horde of undersea foes. One of Lyric's best friends is killed. Lyric intends to have sex with her boyfriend but changes her mind when he treats her badly. She shares a steamy embrace with Fathom. Bex's stepfather gets drunk and assaults her mother. "Hell" and "damn" are each used less than a dozen times.

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What's the story?

When the sea-dwelling Alpha arrived on the shores of Coney Island, they forever changed the course of Lyric Walker's life. She's forced to cut herself off from strangers and finds herself at odds with her family and her best friend. Much of the human race views the Alpha as an invading force, but when politics force Lyric's high school to accept them as students, she reluctantly has to help protect them. Before she quite knows what's happening, she's paired with Fathom, the Alpha crown prince. Lyric and Fathom must learn to trust each other, especially when they learn that an even greater danger is headed their way.

Is it any good?

When denizens of the deep arrive on the shores of New York, it's an opportunity for an unusual and gripping alien invasion tale. Comparisons to current conflicts about immigration are a tad heavy-handed, yet the atmosphere of suspicion and desperation gives the scenario some extra narrative power. Even though Lyric, her family, and her best friend Bex are portrayed as three-dimensional characters, they're still capable of surprising the reader with their hidden strengths and weaknesses.

Lyric's star-crossed romance with Fathom may be somewhat predictable, but their scenes together do add spark to the proceedings. All in all, UNDERTOW is a promising series start, and its climax promises more romantic adventure to come.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about immigration policies around the globe. How are refugees treated when they arrive in a host country?

  • How can politicians use the media to manipulate public opinion? How are they able to present falsehoods as truth?

  • Should people from different cultures be separated from one another for their own good?

Book details

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