Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Above, by Isla Morley

Title: Above
Author: Isla Morley
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 4th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia
Rating: Three Stars

Summary: I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.

Review: *scratches head*

This book confused me, to be honest. I expected one thing when I read the summary and instead got something else entirely as the book progressed, and unfortunately in this case, it's not entirely a good thing.

Blythe is just sixteen years old when Dobbs, the local librarian, kidnaps her and locks her away in a silo. A survivalist, he believes that the world is coming to an end and that she deserves to be protected from becoming like 'the rest', and that the two of them will save and repopulate the world.

My sympathy was instantly with Blythe, who I respected as a character. She's terrified and lonely, but she never really gives up on getting her freedom back. Although the book opens with her already being with Dobbs, through her memories and thoughts we learn more about her family and her background - the things that she holds on to in order to keep herself going.

The book is dark in a lot of ways, so people should be aware of that going in. Some people may be triggered by the subject matter. In a way the first part of the book reminded me very strongly of Room - I haven't read it, but I know that the similarities are there. Blythe clings on to her hope and determination to be free with everything she has, but it seems as though Dobbs is just as determined, convinced with everything he has that he is right and eventually she will see the light.

Eventually Blythe has a son, and that's where the tone of the book starts to shift a bit - it's not simply about herself anymore, it's about him.

I really did quite enjoy the first half of the book, as dark as it was. There's a poetic quality to the writing that describes how the days blur together for Blythe, her struggles with being locked away, not having much food, dealing with Dobbs and his tenuous grasp on reality.

After their escape, however, things take a turn and this is where the book lost me a bit.

I will be honest and admit that I didn't see the dystopian tag when I chose this book - I took a quick look at the description in Netgalley, and can't see anything referencing dystopia, except for a vague line at the end that could have been interpreted in a variety of ways.

Now, I don't have anything against dystopia! In fact, I LOVE dystopia. I just need it to be done well, and have a lot of world building, and what I got in this book was a bit vague and rambly, and not entirely satisfactory. I also wasn't sure what to think about a couple of lines in the book that came across as almost trying to make it seem as though Dobbs wasn't that bad? Or that Blythe should be grateful to him in some way? Which I mean, is incredibly tough for me, because I totally get Stockholm syndrome and I understand that it's hard not to empathise with your abuser, but it still rubbed me the wrong way.

I'm not sure what this book needed, to be honest. To be expanded? The dystopian edge dropped entirely? I don't know. It just didn't quite work for me, in the end. In theory the overall premise still could have worked and been fascinating, but I was left wanting by the ending.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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