Author: Leah Bobet
Summary: 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.
Review: This is one of those books where you can’t help but just say, “Wow,” by the end of it; and that is seriously the only word I can find in my vocabulary right now. Bobet has a beautiful and lilting style that feels like poetry while maintaining a narrative. Matthew felt like he should–a real person who has never lived Above–our world–and has his own language, his own way of saying things, which contrasts with the dialogue of those who are Normal people. Unfortunately, it had what I refer to as a “Yentl ending”, which means it has an ending that you have the distinct feeling is supposed to be happy, but actually is sad and heartbreaking and upsetting and all those things that, I feel, make a book spectacular. This is a rare gem, and if you’re in search of a good standalone, you’re in for a treat with this one.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- I just loved Matthew and Ariel. I can’t really put my finger on why, as she was incredibly quiet and he was shy in his own way as well, but something about the two of them tugged at my heart and made me soar whenever they were together. It’s been a long time since I really wanted more and more and more of a couple after the story is over, and maybe I can attribute that to their less-than-happy ending, but there was something about them that was just plain beautiful. I loved their innocence, the way Matthew took care of her and loved her and spoke about her, and how he protected her from those who hurt her, even when it meant protecting her from himself. It was just so sweet and it broke my heart that they didn’t get the ending I wanted for them–together and happy and “Safe” and sweet–but I’m glad they had what they did, and at least with this being a standalone, I can make up my own future and convince myself they get a happily ever after eventually!
- I loved the writing. Even before the characters sucked me in, the writing was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was like listening to poetry, all the beautiful language and description poetry has, but was a first person narrative, complete with everything that made it a story. Matthew told the story in a way that felt real for someone who had never set foot in our world, phrases like “Whitecoats” and “Freak” and “Killer” all made sense, as they were their most raw and brutal form of their meanings. Matthew’s descriptions were so beautiful in that same raw way, and I loved the way it sounded when I read it. So jolting and jarring and lovely and confusing and everything a narrative like this should be. It didn’t make entire sense at times, and that was okay because it was present-tense–and when things are happening to you, you’re not necessarily supposed to be able to make sense of it yet. And I loved that.
What I Didn’t Like:
- There were too many f-words for my liking, and in unnecessary places, too. It was either an f-word or nothing, and foul language like that just makes me uncomfortable, especially when there’s an easy way to censor it and make it sound just as menacing. There was an easy fix, and it was the only real downer of the book for me.
- There was another case of “writing in present tense just for fun” here. Near the end of the book, Matthew states, “I’m writing to you as myself…” Now that makes sense to be in present tense. But if he’s writing his story, and it’s a retelling, why is it in present tense? It’s already happened, it’s done, it’s a story and not real life anymore. The letter at the very end should be in present tense, because it makes sense, but everything prior in that style? It just doesn’t add up and there’s no reason to it, other than to say it’s present tense.
Overall: Like I said, this was a rare and beautiful gem and so very worth picking up. I am so grateful Bobet sent me two ARCs so I could keep one and give one away. Whoever is the lucky winner will seriously not be disappointed! It was beautiful language and descriptions, characters that pulled you in and made you ache for them, and a stunning setting and world that you wish you could know better. It was all-around gorgeous and is definitely on my all-time favorite’s list. This is one to be treasured and remembered.