Friday, April 1, 2011

Review - Dark Life by Kat Falls (4/5 stars)

Dark LifeReading level: Middle Grade
Genre: Dystopia/Science Fiction
Size: 304 pages
Publisher:  Scholastic Paperbacks
Release Date: February 1, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0545178150
Stand Alone or Series: 1st in Dark Life series
Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: 4/5 stars

I had been wanting to read this book forever.  When I saw that the 2nd book in the series, Rip Tide, was due out soon I decided to pick this book up at my local library.  It was a great read.  It wasn't as complex of a story as I was hoping for but the characters were engaging and the world absolutely fascinating.

Ty lives in an undersea colony.  After earthquakes shattered continents and toppled them into the oceans humans have two choice: live on an overcrowded landmass or live in an experimental ocean colony.  Ty is the first kid to be born and raised undersea; it seems that growing up under that much pressure does something to children's brains giving them strange powers called Dark Gifts.  When Ty's home is threatened by the Seablight gang; the Commonwealth abandons the underwater colonies telling them to deal with the gang problem themselves.  Then a girl shows up named Gemma; she is a Topsider searching for her brother.  There is a lot more going on with the Seablight gang than anyone initially knows and Gemma may be tied to it all.

This was a very good read.  The writing style was a bit simpler than I was hoping for and definitely targets a Middle grade age group.  Still, it was easy to read and engaging.  I absolutely love the idea of humans trying to survive under the ocean.  Falls put a lot of thought into how humans would survive under the ocean and came up with some great ideas.  I also loved the idea behind the Dark Gifts and really hope we get to read more about that in future books.

The book is done from Ty's point of view; as a reader we spend most of our time with Ty and Gemma.  Both were very likable characters.  It took me a bit to really get engaged with them though.  Ty comes off as very stand-offish early on, Gemma as kind of a brat....but by the end of the book I really liked them and enjoyed reading about them.  The characters around them aren't filled out very well.  We do get to learn a lot about Ty's sister Zoe and she was also an intriguing character.

I was kind of hoping that the main conflict in this book was over something really central to the dystopian set up; I was a bit disappointed that it ended up being a gang they were trying to track down.  I guess I was hoping for something more far-reaching.  As I reached the end of the book though I was happy to see that future books in this series promise to introduce more far-reaching issues and conflicts.  This book was more like an introduction to this world than anything.

The book wraps up neatly but it is clear that there will be future stories involving Ty and Gemma and the Seablight gang.

While the book mainly focuses on building up this really cool undersea world for the readers there are some serious issues touched on.  Overcrowding is discussed as is "racial" discrimination (the kids with the Dark Life are feared, and there is a lot of tension between the Dark Life dwellers and the Topsiders).  You don't get to learn a lot about the broader world; the focus is kept pretty tight and just deals with the immediate area the characters live in.

Overall I really enjoyed the world that is set up here and ended enjoying the characters too by the end of the book.  I am eager to read about future undersea adventures and learn more about this world as a whole.  I was hoping for a story that was a bit more complex and for something a bit more far-reaching; this book is mainly introducing the reader to this world and doesn't delve very deeply into how the world got that way or the deeper consequences of what is happening to the world as a whole.  Still those were just my expectations coming in.

The writing style is pretty simple and easy to read; it's appropriate for younger kids as well as older.   Readers who love dystopians and are intrigued by the idea of humans living in the ocean should find this book an excellent read.

This book goes towards the following reading challenge:
- 100+ Reading Challenge

Dark Life 

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