{Review} ABOVE WORLD by Jenn Reese

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O P E N I N G   H O O K:

ALUNA SWAM TOWARD the abandoned outpost, her heart pounding, her breathing necklace pulsing at her throat. She kicked her legs harder, wishing it were tomorrow. Wishing she already had her tail. With a tail, she could speed through the water, fast as a dolphin.

Goldenfins and shiny-blues darted out of her way.  Most of the sun’s light was gobbled up by the ocean above her, but she could still see every frond of kelp, every sprout of rainbow coral, every pair of eyes hidden deep in a hidey-hole. The ancients had blessed the Kampii with everything they needed to survive underwater: powerful tails, thick bones and tough skin, adaptable vision, breathing necklaces...everything except the ability to fix their own tech when it started to fail.

(Page 1, US Hardcover Edition)

Believe it or not, ABOVE WORLD is more sci-fi than it is fantasy.  It takes place far into the future, after humans have overpopulated the Earth and ran out of space.  The LegendaryTek companies (HydroTek, SkyTek,SandTek, etc.) created technology that allowed Humans to live as never before.  They could grow wings and live up in the mountains, tails and live beneath the sea, hooves to survive the desert sands, etc.  Humans modified their genetic makeup and relied on Tek such as breathing necklaces in order to survive.  This all occurs hundreds of years before ABOVE WORLD begins, and many no longer know the story behind the birth of the new world.

Aluna is a Kampii, one who lives underwater thanks to a breathing necklace.  She's about to come of age and gain her tail, but she's worried because a lot of other Kampii have begun dying due to faulty breathing necklaces.  She gives up the ability to have a tail, which she has dreamed of her entire life, and makes her way to the dangerous surface in order to find answers and save her people.  She is joined by her best friend, the awkward but loyal Hoku, and realizes just how violent the Above has become.  It's every creature for him/herself, and there's a diabolical villain that enjoys ripping other beings apart and harvesting the pieces to create a perfect body.  The descriptions remind me of the scene from the first TOY STORY movie where all of the mutilated toys in Sid's bedroom come out to see Buzz and Woody.  It's creepy, but also serves a greater purpose.

I was surprised to find out that ABOVE WORLD isn't a stand-alone novel like I originally anticipated.  Future books make sense, especially if the series will shape up to bring the world back in balance.  There's no cliffhanger, but there are enough loose ends left hanging to warrant a repeat visit to the series. I really enjoyed Reese's addition of Hoku as a side-kick.  He's awkward, but lovable, and readers will easily see themselves in him.  Aluna can be rash, but has a good heart, so she's relatable as well.  I also enjoyed all of the ways Humans have evolved over the centuries and was intrigued by some of the forms they took, and what Tek they used to maintain their livelihood.  These descriptions were the highlight for me.   The book progresses and becomes darker as it evolves into the truth behind Tek and the world's future, and it feels as though each book will mature and grow stronger as they go along.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I adore the font used for the title.  I WANT THIS FONT.  I love the way it swoops and bends and curls and just...everything about it!  I also like the way the clouds and light are piercing the water behind the title from above, a clever pun!  

At the forefront is a shell with a seahorse embedded on it, which I assume is supposed to represent a breathing necklace?  There's a lot going on in the background, which is brimming with sea life.  There's also a sense of danger when you notice the trail of red in the bottom right-hand corner.

I like the way the interior design mirrors the seahorse icon from the cover and uses the same font used for the title with the nested letter that begins each chapter:

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Jenn Reese
Release Date: Out Feb. 14, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Received: Borrowed


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.