Wednesday, 23 March 2011

review: Dark Life

by Kat Falls
Scholastic Press, 2010
young adult fantasy


Fifteen-year-old Ty lives with his family on the final frontier--the seafloor. He's the first child to have been born under the ocean, and he can't wait until eighteen, when he'll receive a hundred acres of his own land under the sea from the government. When he meets Gemma, a Topsider searching for her brother in the deep, he's got enough trouble on his hands keeping her safe from the vicious gang of sea outlaws, never mind evading all her prying questions on "Dark Gifts"--a power that the sea pioneers supposedly have. As Ty endeavours to catch the outlaws and Gemma searches for her brother, their objectives and findings clash, bringing them and their results together in surprising ways.
The cover:

The atmosphere of the cover is suitably mysterious, especially with the exquisite detailing of the background. The placement of the jellyfish is maybe a little bit too centred; I'm thinking putting it off to the side or even coming in diagonally would've made for a more visually intriguing picture.

The book:

Ty is the kind of boy character who's recently gone out of style (in my opinion): he's loyal, hardworking, proud and completely unaware of his good looks. YA literature has (or at least I have) had enough of cocky, self-confident and suave guys who know they're hot. Same with Gemma--the way they regard each other is entirely sweet and very endearing; they're both oblivious of their own looks and all too aware of the other's. That being said, the romance is squeezed in between the healthy helpings of action, and thus the relationship doesn't feel developed enough to have reached the point it did at the novel's end. The epilogue makes up for it-- an unnecessary but pleasant enough epilogue.

The plot holds enough twists and surprises to satisfy both the fantasy and the mystery reader. Themes of family and fitting in complement each other and the story well: Ty's parents consider moving back Topside, while Ty very much wants his own land undersea; the Dark Gifts prevent Ty and his other seaborn friends from fitting in completely. Our antagonist becomes unclear after a while in a good way, adding tension through unexpected venues. The Dark Gifts add an extra-fantastical touch to this tale of discovery and acceptance.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5