Above World by Jenn Reese is a Nebula finalist (Andre Norton Award) this year, therefore as soon as I spotted it, I had to read it. I’ve been craving mermaid/underwater books lately (I think they make me think of summer, haha), so I was freaking thrilled to discover Above World. While the Kampii don’t want you to call them mermaids, and a lot of the book takes place in the Above World (ie land), this book had such an original combination of fantasy and sci-fi elements as well as an awesome retelling of the traditional mermaid myths. Think about a world were humans have altered themselves to be able to live underwater (tails, breathing devices and all), or fly through the skies (think harpies, but not evil), or gallop across the deserts (centaurs!). That is the world that Above World is set in :D.
I borrowed a copy of this book from the library. All statements are my own honest opinions.
Goodreads | Amazon | LibraryThing
Title: Above World
Author: Jenn Reese
Length: 368 pages (hardcover)
Genre-ish: Fantasy/Sci-fi hybrid :D (Younger YA)
Rating: ★★★★★- such awesome world-building and characters!
Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.
But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true. — Goodreads
- One of my favorite things about Above World were the new phrases that Reese came up with to suit a culture that has been living under the sea for generations. They say things like “still as a starfish” because that’s what they are surrounded by! This level of detail to the world made me really happy :D.
- At first I thought Above World was a fantasy with mermaids, then I realized it was a fantasy with sci-fi roots to explain how all the humanoids came to be. This hybridization was freaking awesome to read.
- Aluna and Hoku are adorable and I love how they broke various stereotypes. Aluna was a great female character who was a complete tomboy, though her headstrong nature got her into trouble sometimes. Hoku was the one who needed rescuing because he was a complete nerd :D, but his curiosity for technology was quite useful in the end.
- Above World is proof that best friends don’t always have to fall in love with each other. This was a huge relief ;-) and sends a good message I think. Turns out girls and boys can be just friends if they want, haha.
- As with many books of this age range, there were some convenient developments to get the characters out of various pickles.
- While Above World at first seems like a middle grade, I would be very cautious about suggesting this to kids. There were some pretty gruesome moments with all the body part switching technology. I would say Above World is more a light YA given the gore-y parts near the end.
I may be biased due to my current mermaid addiction, but Above World is hands down an awesome fantasy/sci-fi book. I am in love with this world and can’t wait to find out more about the centaur people in the next book :D. While most of Above World has a MG feel to it, there is definitely a lot of weird and gore-y moments given the nature of the technological enhancements everyone has. If you are looking for a fun fantasy that has tech-mermaids (maybe you didn’t realize you were looking for that, but you should be!), great characters and world-building, and a bit of an edge, you have to pick up Above World like NOW.