Undertow by Michael Buckley // A cool species in the wrong story

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Undertow by Michael Buckley // A cool species in the wrong storyUndertow (Undertow #1) by Michael Buckley
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 5th 2015
Genres: Dystopian (YA), Fantasy (YA)
Pages: 376
Source: Netgalley
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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.
Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.

* Disclaimer: I use some quotes from the book but they’re from an uncorrected NetGalley. Thus, some of the quotes may be different in the final product, or not in it at all.

PLOTThe story itself isn’t all that bad, it just wasn’t something I was into. 

Here’s what I imagined the plot to be like: Twilight – if the Cullens were mermaids and disliked by the entire town, not worshiped. I say that because it focuses a lot on a forbidden relationship and not an intriguing plot.

Personally, what overshadowed the plot, even if it was just a lot of forbidden love, was that I felt that the story had an underlying political agenda to it that seemed very in-tune to current political issues. I wasn’t sure if the author was trying to get you to root for the Alphas or not because if so, it wasn’t convincing me.

For those of you who have read it, or don’t mind some spoilers (not a huge spoiler, it’s just about one character’s views and how I feel they were portrayed):

View Spoiler »

PLOT (1)

I never fell in love with any of the characters.

The story follows Lyric, who used to be a “wild thing” and is now a “basic bitch” to protect her family (that’s basically what I was gathering). I didn’t like her character, mostly because there wasn’t a lot to her. It was completely obvious what direction her development was going to go within the first few pages with nothing surprising added throughout. I also did not connect to her personality — she seemed like she was trying to be mature, but came across like a brat most of the time. Also, for someone so desperate to help her family, she gave into the hot guy without a shirt within a minute.

Then there are the Alphas. Their descriptions were just insane to me. Sometimes it was hard to imagine how they would really fit into this world. Because of that, I felt like there was a disconnect between me, the reader, and the story. The Alphas would be a really interesting species to follow if they were in a different story.

PLOT (2)

The writing was decent and the pacing was fast. That’s pretty much all I have to say about it. There wasn’t anything that stuck out with the writing on a positive note. Sometimes I thought the writing was actually too immature. For example, here are some descriptions used:

  • “…all roly-poly-like…”
  • “…tall-ass frame…”
  • “…Bex = besty…”

They’re not terrible, but they’re phrases that you’d see in a YA contemporary. It didn’t fit in this sort of dystopian fantasy.

Also, the phrases “I cry”, “I cried” and “He/she cried” were used exactly 70 times throughout the book.

PLOT (3)

If the Alphas were in a different story, I would have probably enjoyed reading about them more. Unfortunately, they were not, they were in this one. I wasn’t sold on the romance, I thought the plot was thin, and I was absolutely turned off by the political undertone of this. Now, that’s not to say it’s a horrible book, I can see other people liking this one. It just depends on what you’re expecting or how you feel about the politics of it.

Rating Report
World Building
Overall: 2 / 5

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17 thoughts on “Undertow by Michael Buckley // A cool species in the wrong story

  1. Sorry this one didn’t work for you. It does sound like the Alpha’s were interesting, they just didn’t work in this book. And its hard to enjoy the book if you don’t care about the characters. I’ve seen this book around and I like the cover, but wasn’t sure if I would like it.

    1. It was a total cover pick for me, I didn’t even know it was about merfolk haha But yeah, there definitely was a big disconnect for me. Oh well! haha

  2. I’ve been curious about this one since seeing the cover. I like merfolk so any story with them gets my attention, but a lot of times they’re romances or whatever, you know? Anyway… the merfolk sound cool (although perhaps too powerful?) and I love the idea of them showing up on Coney Island. Definitely potential there. But I think I’d have similar issues.

    I looked at the spoiler and sigh I would probably have the same reaction. If I read a book like this I want a thrilling adventure about an aquatic race coming ashore, the dangerous threat hinted at in the blurb, etc not an examination of xenophobia or societal issues. Just me though…

    1. All of that is why I think the Alpha would have been better for another story. They weren’t a terrible race, or species, or whatever, it just wasn’t a great story. This was actually my first merfolk story I’ve read, so it didn’t put me off to a great start with those type of books hah.

  3. It’s a shame you didn’t like this much…Loved reading your review though! I’ve never heard of this book, but when you said you couldn’t really get on with the characters and how immature the writing was sometimes, I just thought “nahh…I’d probably be the same”. Hope your next book is a more enjoyable read for you!

    1. Yeah, it’s always unfortunate when you don’t like a book much! But oh well! I read a good one after hahah So, that makes up for it 😀 And yeah, the writing was just….eh….I wouldn’t really have a problem with it if it was in a contemporary or NA, but it didn’t fit for this novel & the world the author was trying to create.

  4. I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while but I don’t think I ever actually read the full blurb? Because that is so not what I thought this was about lol. Like, I knew about the ocean-dwellers or whatever, but I didn’t know it was about a teenager helping someone assimilate and falling in love. And judging from your review, is does seem like the actual story is a bit disjointed from the whole dystopian thing or whatever is going on in the world with the creatures. Now that I know what this is actually about, I don’t think it’d be right for me either. And I looked at the spoiler, and I’d probably agree with her too. Political overtones or not, it just seems like a bad idea to immediately trust them when you know nothing about them.

    1. Yeah, I don’t think I actually read the full blurb before picking it up. For some reason, I had no idea it was about sea people lol. There is some action at the end that develops a bit of a story, but the bulk of the book is the assimilation and the romance…so bleh.

      As for the political aspect, yeah, it just seemed like…idk…a bad idea to have an army of insanely strong teenagers with special powers just wandering around a high school? It seemed like common sense. But was made to be all evil to think that way….it just bothered me. haha

  5. I actually won a copy of this last year at my library and ended up giving it away when I couldn’t get into it… It sounds like I made the right decision though. The characters and the writing both sound terrible. :/ Thanks for reading this so I didn’t have to! XD Great review!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. Yeah. I almost put it down but I had already DNF’d one book this month, I didn’t want to put down another haha It wasn’t all that great, so yeah, you probably made the right decision 😀

  6. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while now, and I keep putting it in my monthly TBRs and then not reading it – maybe it’s a sign? It sucks about the descriptions of the Alphas, when you really can’t picture a description (or have a hard time) it sucks and totally takes away or even ruins the story. I gathered there would be some political stuff in the book due to the military aspect but I’m really not looking forward to reading it now, lol. Maybe one day I will read everything on my shelf and have nothing else and finally pick it up XD sorry you didn’t like it much!

    1. The Alphas were just so insane looking. Like, how the hell are they supposed to blend in with human students? That’s where I had the difficulty lol And yeah, I mean, politics is fine, I just felt like they were poking fun at every republican. Maybe I was just too sensitive. I wanted to share some direct quotes from the book to support that feeling, but it’s an uncorrected proof so IDK if they’re in the final product.

  7. It’s too bad you didn’t like this one! I’ve actually tried to read it multiple times now, but just haven’t gotten around to really trying. I probably won’t now, because I just can’t see myself enjoying it.

    1. Yeah, maybe that’s a sign you aren’t meant to finish it hahah Oh well! There are plenty more books in the sea to choose from ;P