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.Hardcover, 384 pages
Three stars: Mer people clash with humans and chaos ensues.
Lyric wishes she could pull the covers over her head and skip this day. Her best friend, Bex, has other ideas. Bex insists they have to look their best as they might be on tv. Today is the day that their Coney Island high school is being integrated. The new students are from the Alpha race, a group of mer people, who came out of the ocean three years ago. Lyric knows that trouble is going to ensue because humanity still hasn't accepted the Alpha. Lyric must keep her head down and try to remain invisible. Lyric is also hiding a big secret. Can Lyric protect her secret and maintain a low profile?
What I Liked:
- I admit, I am not a fan of mermaid books because so far my experience with them has been rather lackluster. I was pleased that Undertow was not your typical mermaid book. This one reads a bit like a dystopian blended with a sci fi book. It is more like an alien invasion via the sea vs. space. I also appreciated the difficult social issues that were explored in this one. From extreme prejudice to domestic abuse, there were some tough topics in this read. All in all, it was an entertaining and exciting premise that sets up for what will hopefully be a solid series.
- I liked that the Alpha race was diverse and like nothing I had encountered before. I enjoyed meeting the different Alphas and learning more about their powers and abilities. I also liked that they were a bit aggressive and standoffish, it made the read more scary.
- Lyric is a likable heroine. She is a teenage girl with a big burden on her shoulders, and then things get worse. I appreciated how hard she fought to save her family, and that she always tried to do what she could to help her best friend. I also enjoyed watching her slowly let go of her own fears and prejudices when it comes to the Alpha. Lyric also possesses a fun sense of humor, and some of her commentary is funny, especially when it comes to her nasty, nosy neighbor.
- One of the highlights of the book for me was when Lyric was teaching Fathom to read. I loved his interpretation of many popular children's books from Red Fish, Blue Fish, to The Hungry Caterpillar and one of my forgotten childhood favorites, The Great Jam Sandwich. I loved that the author included all of these gems.
- I liked the mystery and the suspense in this one. There were so many things that I was itching to know, but the author refused to lay out all of his cards at once. Instead he delivered the snippets of information I was craving like breadcrumbs, which kept me reading until the thrilling end.
- The ending is a whirlpool of chaos and action. So much happens, it is hard to put it down during those final chapters. There are big revelations regarding the Alpha and why they came to Coney Island as well as about Lyric and some of the other Alpha. I also liked that unexpected people turned into allies. Everything collides into a stunning finale that will leave you itching for more.
And The Not So Much:
- I struggled a bit with lack of detail as far as the world building goes. The book takes place a full three years after the Alpha came to shore. During that three years, the Alpha have taken over the famous beaches of Coney Island, leaving the famous landmarks to ruin. Now the school is being integrated. What bothered me was there was never an explanation as to why the school was opening to the Alpha. The governor was not a supporter so who was behind the order? The U.S. government? I wanted to know who decided to integrate the school and why. Furthermore, it was indicated that Alpha had landed on other shores and that the U.S. government was involved with them, but there was no further explanation. So I never had a handle on how the government felt about the Alpha. Were they friends or foes? On one hand, it seemed they wanted to be friends, but on another, not. I also didn't like that the whole landing event was glossed over and only relayed in small flashback snippets. You would think that the big invasion would be a key part of the story. I thought the author missed the mark by not including more detail about the Alpha's arrival.
- The whole thing with one of the original Alphas (I won't name her to avoid spoilers) bothered me. I wanted to know more about her life before she assimilated in the human population as well as how she went about passing off as human. There is absolutely no explanation about how these twenty Alphas came on shore and learned to be human. Furthermore, her human mate was in the know about her true origins. How did their romance come about? I was wanting to know so much more about this part of the story. I am sure it was an interesting conversation... along the lines of "I really like you but I have a big secret.... I am part mermaid?" How does that go over?
- The romance was a bit of a miss for me. It was rather predictable who Lyric would fall for from the beginning, and then when it played out, I felt it moved into romantic territory too quickly for my taste. I was enjoying the building of a hesitant friendship. Lyric wanted nothing to do with the Alpha prince, but then she was forced to help him learn to read. At first, things were moving along at a perfect speed, and then all of a sudden she loves him? I thought the romance lacked depth and emotion.
- I appreciated the story line with Bex and her abusive stepfather, but I was rather disappointed that after the big dramatic and tragic event that unfolds, Bex disappears and then resurfaces. What happened to her during that time and what did she do?
- The book ends with a big cliffhanger that I found frustrating. I am to the point where I have little tolerance for them. Expect no resolution and lots of unanswered questions.
Undertow is an exciting series opener with lots of promise. I liked that this one read a bit like an alien invasion meets the U.S. 1960's school integration. I appreciated the author's use of social themes as he takes on some big troubling societal issues from prejudice to domestic abuse. Unfortunately, I was a bit put off by lack of detail, lackluster romance and the cliffhanger. Still I liked this enough to recommend it for those who enjoy a dystopian type read with suspense, action and mer people.
"Her husband passed away two years ago. He choked on some soup. Really. I mean, who chokes to death on soup? Someone who's looking for a way out, that's who."
"He's also got on running shorts that have never been used for their intended purpose. If anything, they should be called "sitting around leering at teenage girls" shorts, or "practicing being a sociopath shorts."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.