Undertow by Michael Buckley

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. Summary from Goodreads.

Undertow | Michael Buckley | YA | Dystopian | May 5, 2015 | HMH Books for Young Readers |

From the moment I read the synopsis for Undertow and saw the image of a dystopian reimagined Coney Island on its cover, I knew I wanted to know all about Michael Buckley's new young adult series and the Alpha warrior race that rises up out of the ocean and straight into young Lyric's teen life! 

Michael Buckey has the reader envision a modern-day Coney Island, known for being a melting pot, and takes the reader on a ride full of action and danger, yet he also delivers moments of quite as teens are presented with thought-provoking ideas in the form of prejudice, one directed at an otherworldly life that comes from our very own ocean. I loved how easy it was to imagine the shock and chaos it would cause. The setting for Undertow played a perfect part in the story as the reader can easily imagined a tent city going up and strange warriors that are similar enough to human, yet alien enough from the sea, to somehow feel relatable and strange at the same time.

Lyric and Fathom have a romance that builds and feels very star-crossed as outside forces threaten to keep them apart. Yet, with each threat these two learn more about each others customs and about themselves. Lyric is a great heroine with a sharp sense of humor and a strong and compassionate heart. I especially loved the completely unexpected reveals about Lyric that drove her connection to the Alpha's in a bigger way and has me clamoring for the next story already. Her interactions with Fathom goes from unsure and untrusting to one of acceptance and admiration. I loved watching how they built a friendship despite seeing at first only their differences. Fathom is a warrior, and the book describes how much this was an honor and a hardship for him. Undertow uses Fathom and Lyric's initial differences and building romance to underline some important concepts, all the while thrilling and making us swoon.

Besides the terrific action, romance and clever use of intolerance in the form of alien sea life forms into a read, I loved all the interesting forms the Alpha's took on! We have the very warrior type race, but then there's Selkies, Nixies, Ceto and the Sirena which all have distinctive traits that were fabulous fun to figure out. The Nix with their teeth and claws, the Sirena whose every changing emotions are revealed in the color of their scales. Some have blades that come right out of their arms, others are both beautiful and vicious. Tentacles and translucent skin - there's not a shortage of uniqueness among them and the geeky-girl in me cheered at all their strangeness. 

I would recommend Undertow to readers looking for a smart and thrilling dystopian read in the young adult department with worldbuilding that's tossed right out from our very own ocean. Add to that some great romance and thoughtfulness on intolerance, and you have a winner read. Undertow is my first reading experience with Michael Buckley and I'm happy to say I'm going to be eagerly waiting on the next installment and more adventures with him.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars. I really liked it!

PLEASE NOTE: A courtesy review copy of this book was provided by HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for my fair review. Thank you, HMH Books for Young Readers for the review opportunity!