Going Underground Review

Friday, August 26, 2011

Title: Going Underground
Author: Susan Vaught
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publish Date: September 13, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher

Del is a good kid who's been caught in horrible circumstances. At seventeen, he's trying to put his life together after an incident in his past that made him a social outcast-and a felon. As a result, he can't get into college; the only job he can find is digging graves; and when he finally meets a girl he might fall in love with, there's a sea of complications that threatens to bring the world crashing down around him again.

But what has Del done? In flashbacks to Del's fourteenth year, we slowly learn the truth: his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo of herself, a teacher confiscated his phone, and soon the police were involved.
Del never meant for any of it to happen. Neither did Cory. They were children, but they liked each other, and they decided that before they went too far too soon, they'd test the waters with photos of themselves. That one simple act sent Del's world spiraling into a dark abyss of beign a convicted felon and registered sex-offender. Years later, he's desperate to put the pieces back together, go to college and find a good job, but his past is still haunting him. Can he find peace with his past, make a future for himself and enjoy happiness again, or will his past haunt him forever?

You know, I've never really considered an "issue" book like this. I love me some twisty nonsense, but Going Underground was a whole new realm for me because it's something that I don't know too much about. Frankly, the only time I hear about someone releasing naked pictures of themselves, it's when I'm perusing Perez because I'm bored. Susan Vaught has cleverly crafted a story that tackles an extremely sensitive, controversial and delicate issue with ease with Going Underground. Creating heartfelt characters that display two sides to the controversy surrounding cell phones, their potential for misuse and the crimes that can be committed when using them. Rather than painting the story in black and white, the author has given us shades of gray in Going Underground, allowing the reader to see a victim in the perpetrator of a crime.

Going Underground wasn't the easiest read for me, but I'm by no means saying it was poorly done. The story was powerful and profound, and Del was an extremely likable MC. He was honest, respectful, hardworking and decent despite what happened three years ago. I felt for him and his situation, truly, I did. I think the main problem I had was that it's not an issue I know too much about, and I've always seen that one side of it. Sending inappropriate images via cell phones is wrong - that's what I believe, but Going Underground made me think because Del and Cory had no sort of malice in mind when they did so. It was curiosity - pure and simple. It was hard for me to reconcile the two. I will note that the book does jump from the present to three years in the past where we see what brought Del to his position today, and it was done well. The transitions weren't jarring, and it flowed smoothly. I also enjoyed the touches of lightness in an otherwise somber book...like the talking parrot, Fred. Trust me, she fits into the story of Going Underground seamlessly. The only other qualm I really had was that I felt the ending was a bit too convenient and too easy. Do I love ribbons and bows? Sure, but are they always realistic? Heck no.

All in all, Going Underground was a very good read, and I'm sure many a reader will get a powerful message out of it. I think my main problem was, perhaps, my lack of knowledge on the subject, but that's not to say the author didn't create a remarkable story. I give it a very strong 3.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to all fans of YA and adult reads, as well those who enjoy contemporary and issue books.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. I've read good things about this one; I already have it on my list - I truly think that many kids don't even realize how wrong sexting is - and I definitely don't think they deserve to become felons for it (unless they're sharing other's pictures - but even then ...)

  2. I do not know. Kids are stupid but they should not be outcasts for that. If he did nothing with it and he was that young. The book would just bug me then

  3. Sounds interesting. I read a similar book called Exposure about that. Seems like a really dumb thing to do.
    Glad the transition btw past and present were handled well. That's hard to get right.

  4. I love this review. It sounds not bad and definitely different. Thanks for your honest take.

  5. I have yet to read and issue book that had this particular issue in it. I have seen this issue many times across headlines and would love to read more into it. Nice review!

  6. I've never heard of this one before. I'm not sure if I'll be a little squirmish to read about that particular issue... we'll see. Thanks for the review, Melissa!

  7. Huh. I hadn't heard much about this one, but it sounds really interesting! I haven't read much about the consequences/stories surrounding nude photos. Glad to hear it was interesting! Thanks for the review! :)

  8. This one sounds interesting...

    I have never really thought of the "sender" in this crime. I just had a friend who pressed charges against a guy who sent her pics of his "you know what". I cant believe how much this happens now days....when I was in highschool, stuff like that...naked pics or sex tapes, that was social disaster not anything cool....

  9. I've never really understood the desire to send naked pictures to someone else via any form of digital technology since so much can go wrong and inevitably people who were never meant to see them do. I like that the book addresses this issue though and makes you think the issue through regardless of your previous opinion on it:) Fabulous review as usual Melissa!

  10. I read a book by Vaught called "Trigger" a while back. Really liked it (no review -- way before blogging...) But that makes me want to try this one. Thanks!

  11. Sexting is seriously, not cool. People should know, especially in high school, if you send one pic the whole school will see it. Not that I'd send any, but still (hopefully that made sense?). It sounds like an interesting book. We studied convicted sex offenders in one of my law classes in college. It's intriguing to find out how that whole system works.

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  12. This definitely sounds interesting. I had heard of another book with a similar subject and thought it might interesting. This one sounds better though. I'll have to give it a try sometime!

  13. This sounds promising and unique.

  14. Sexting is a relatively new problem that really hasn't been explored much which is why I'm surprised a book about this issue is out now. It sounds like the author didn't really make a strong case of what the characters did was wrong. The book does look promising and I thought her other book, "Trigger" was ok. I think I might pick this one up. Thanks for an honest review!

  15. AWESOME review! I can see why you would have a few problems with it. It is kind of hard to relate when you have never experienced it yourself. But Del and Cory sound like great characters. Thanks for the review, Melissa!

  16. This one sounds so unique. It also sounds like something I would love. Thanks for a great and honest review!! I'll be adding this one to my TBR :)

  17. There is a novel out recently, This Beautiful Life, that tackles a similar scenario -- the effects of sexting when a father of the girl gets the police involved. I'm curious as to what the "complications" are with his new girlfriend. I don't read alot of YA as you know, but I am going to check this one out.
    Great review Melissa :)

  18. I'm pretty ignorant to the issue of cell phone texting of naked pictures too. It sounds like it was handled well though. I feel bad for Del.


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