Non-spoiler Review: Undertow by Michael Buckley

Undertow Author: Michael Buckley Pages: 384 Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers Published on: May 5th 2015 Sixteen-year-ol...


Author: Michael Buckley
Pages: 384
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published on: May 5th 2015
Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen. Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.


I got this book via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. None of my opinions are altered by that. 

NetGalley sent a promotional email regarding this book, and based on the cover, it seemed pretty interesting. The synopsis really made me want to read it. I could tell it was about our Coney Island having to deal with change. Coney Island already seems pretty hectic and now it has to deal with change? This could be interesting; and I was right. It was fun, heartwarming, suspenseful, and the start to a great series.

The characters were very diverse, since this book includes interaction with different kinds of people. We had humans interacting with the Alpha, and it was interesting to see how they acted around humans. The Alpha are basically part mermaid, swordfish, and human. It was so clear they had features that were far from human features, like their swords that shoot off their arm and the spikes around their shoulders, that kind of cool stuff. The things that made them human, though, were features such as legs and a face with a nose and eyes. The way they acted, however, is far more interesting. Most people like to stay out of trouble; they don’t want any drama. Let’s say someone is talking smack about someone else. People generally react in three ways: ignoring it and living on with life, defending themself in a verbal way, or just getting into a fight. The Alpha react in one of those ways every time: getting into a fight. I feel as though a fight is their main way of resolution to a problem. The people at Lyric’s school were discriminating and saying negative things about the Alpha, so what did one of the Alpha do? That’s right, he punched that kid straight in the gut. Fathom is constantly fighting people who challenge his father. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are very aggressive when needed.

In the beginning of the book, Fathom, the prince of his people, is just so arrogant, annoying, and whiny. He demands to be treated like a prince- hence the fact that he is now on land and his status in the ocean no longer matters- and despises humans.  By the end of the book he has adapted to our humanly ways by being polite and not expecting everyone to want to kiss his feet when he walks by. It’s so great to see that growth and how Lyric, our main character, is now able to tolerate him.

I thought Lyric was a great main character. One thing I have to say about her is how she is able to face her fears. She is ready to protect Bex (her best friend), her mom, and anyone she loves anytime. I wouldn’t say she is fearless, just that she is really good at facing her fears. It was fascinating to see how she grew throughout the book as well. She was able to handle Fathom and learn more about the Alphas and their species. Lyric also grew into a fighter by the ending of this book as well. She goes through so much throughout this book–she can fight and survive. I am really excited to read the next book because I’m very excited for the badass scenes Lyric with (hopefully) get.

One thing that brought down my rating though was how it didn’t seem like Lyric “loved” Fathom. The chemistry between them just wasn’t enough to be love. I have no doubt she likes him and has feelings for him, but I’m just not convinced she loves him.

The plot of this book was just as great as the set of characters. It just built up to this glorious climax, then all the pieces perfectly fell to create a base for the next book. Along the way, Buckley introduced new characters, plot twists, and more information about the Alphas, which led me to want to read more. I really liked Buckley’s writing and how he was able to keep this book going; the pacing was just perfect. I didn’t feel as though any situations were being forced onto the characters, and the book never really got boring.

One of the things that really stuck out to me was the ending. Undertow already had so many scenes that could pass as the climax, but there was always more.  Right before the actual climax, it feels as though we are in a different book because the environment the majority of the book takes place in just changes. The book switches directions, and Lyric is no longer trying to achieve what she was trying to achieve.  We have the same characters, but they are now doing something different, and I think a change in environment and atmosphere can go wrong so easily. The author did a great job with it. It can always seem like the book is going to fast and that is why I said the pacing was great.

Undertow was a great dystopian read and I’m super excited to read the next books! I loved the characters, and it was so cool to see how differently the Alpha acted compared to us humans. The pacing of this book was great, there was so much action, and I loved the ending. I definitely recommend this to people who like reading about change, different kinds of species, and fast-paced action.

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