Author: Isla Morley
Publisher: Hodder and Staughton
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Buy it: Here
Blythe is kidnapped when she is 16 by the school librarian, and kept underground in a bunker while her delusional captor teaches her survivalist manifestos for the End Of Days. As she struggles to find a way to escape, meeting many hurdles, she learns the one thing she never would have guessed.
Above is a novel split into two parts - the first is an horrific tale of capture, kidnapping and mad men, and the second is a story of home truths, misplaced gratitude and adaptation.
I don't really know whether I enjoyed Above or not, but I was certainly intrigued by its premise the whole way through. The plot was new and different enough to keep me reading to the end, however, I struggled to like - or want to get to know - any of the characters. Initially I loved Blythe; she was spunky and a little bit hap-hazard. I also found her captor, Dobbs, to be suitably creepy and psychologically frightening. That was, until about a third of the way through where they both stopped developing, lost their motives and bowed to each others' whims. Blythe became a weak-willed supplicant and Dobbs ended up a placating overseer. Now, I admit that years down a dark hole would do this to someone... but for me the first half was too long, and this type of character base doesn't hold much in the way of exciting story...
Another slight downside to the first half was that there were also giant time jumps - paragraph to paragraph - which might have been better if they started new chapters. I was getting a bit lost in some parts as an action took place, and then suddenly it was resolved. Or was it a flashback? A memory? It was often hard to work out.
The second half picked up the pace, and as a "reveal" is given to the reader I enjoyed the path of discovery. The character of Adam was such a welcome addition to this part of the book, and kept things coming from an interesting viewpoint. I felt much more relaxed in the second half too, as the writing settled down into a more linear prose and I could follow the story through to its conclusion.
Above is an intriguing book, but for me, it has too many little nagging problems. The giant time-jumps, staccato action and no discernible development in the main character over 17 years left me somewhat cold, but I did enjoy the unexpected reveal at the mid-point, and the effects of "sheltered" life on the human condition.