Author: Leah Bobet (Twitter)
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Publish Date: April 1, 2012
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Personal Copy
Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above—like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home—not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.
Fantasy is one of those genres that either truly works for me, or it doesn't. When I began to read Above by Leah Bobet, I was extremely intrigued by the complexity of the synopsis, the premise and the overall idea of the novel. There is an inherent beauty to a novel that can can stray so far form the norm yet somehow still ground you essentially to the characters despite all the otherwise unrealistic elements. Above takes a unique approach to fantasy though, with a whimsical tone that offers us fragmented pieces of this alternate reality, but never quite fulfills the need that we, as readers, have to discover the beauty of this written world.
I rather liked Ms. Bobet's approach to Above. However, I did struggle at times with separating the characters, the places, the powers and the backstory, as it's written very much in a voice that's true to the fantasy that this story is. The easiest way to describe it is that Above painted a pretty picture incredible picture for me, but I really struggled to ascertain the details, so I feel as though the story, the message and the overall beauty was somewhat hazy to me in the end. In all honesty, I cannot say that I truly got a handle on any of the characters' personas.
Despite my struggles to become truly invested in the story of Above though, it must be stated that Ms, Bobet's prose, if taken entirely at face value, was beautiful. It has a lyrical quality that feels closer to free-form speech than typical grammar. At first, I found it difficult to understand the tone and get to the clarity of the novel, but as I read further, I could easily recognize the haunting power in the words, alone. While I'm not sure I gleaned the entire story through the prose, I must say the author could make one very powerful poet.
I can tell that there is a powerful hidden message in this novel, as is evidenced by the author's rich writing style, but I'll admit that it would take a re-read for me to truly comprehend the depth of Above, and this is one of those novels that, while beautiful, it requires a lighter read following. I give it a high 3 out of 5 because it is really quite well-written, but though I loved Ms. Bobet's prose, the story didn't really speak to me. I recommend Above to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy rich fantasy.