Michael Buckley takes the reader to Coney Island, but here the rides are all closed and something from the Ocean has taken over:
The lives of everyone who lived on Coney Island changed when 30,000 Alphas emerged from the Ocean and arrived on the beach. The Alpha's are a warrior group from the great deep who have finally made their presence to the human world known. Lyric was there when they emerged from the Ocean and has witnesses the changes to Coney Island since then. But humans has never been known to accept those who are different than them quickly and the wonder of a new intelligence species, soon turns to paranoid, fear and hate and the town is turned into a Military zone. The USA government is determined to make peace with the Alphas and assimilate them into the American and Human way. Lyric is recruited (albeit against her will) to help the crown prince named Fathom learn about human culture and interaction, but this helps puts her in the sights of those who want to destroy the Alphas and even walking the streets becomes dangerous for Lyric. Lyric also has something to hide as well, a secret that would change her life and that of her family forever and being in the spot light is the last thing she wanted, she need to hold it together even as everything else around her crumbles.
I really enjoyed this book and for the last 50 pages I did not want to put it down I need to see how this book would end. That said this book is very District 9 except the creatures came out of the ocean and not space and all the challenges that are associated with those ideas. Buckley does a fantastic job in creating the different creatures associated with the Alphas. The different types of clans, what they look like and their abilities were the parts of the book that I enjoyed the most. Buckley needed to create a whole culture around these aspects especially since they are a warrior culture. There were also different amounts of how “human” each of the Alpha’s looked, some could almost pass for human, those that were from the Siren tribe and then there were those that would probably be something out of a horror novel with spikes and malformed limbs that looked more like sea creatures than human. I have not read an ocean based created before so this was cool and refreshing to me. The fact that we have explored only a fraction of the any of the Oceans makes the idea of different types of life forms down in the Great Abyss a very real possibility.
Lyric was an interesting character as you can tell that she wants to rise above the racism and bullying that is occurring in her school with the introduction of the Alphas however, she also knows that she has to lay low in order to protect her family and she struggles with this throughout the book as it really is against her nature. Lyric does have some typical teenage thoughts throughout the book, about wanting to be popular and the need of a boyfriend, but I think that these traits are expected in a YA novel.
This book tackles quite a few of the topics/themes that are common in YA novels; racism, bullying and domestic violence. You can tell that Buckley took from different times in history as inspiration for each of these topics. The racism in the book sounds right out of the history books in the 1960 when the USA government did away with segregation within the school system, with the violent crowds out front of the schools, the out spoken representatives and the bullying that happened within the school. The gangs that formed out of this forced integration and the actions they took against those who did not see their way just shows the power of the mob and the spread of misinformation. Bullying within this book is really highlighted not only within the school but also with the use of social media and how information can spread with just a click of a button. I find how fast social media can spread information especially false information to be extremely scary.
I felt the place where Buckley lacked in this book was that I did not feel any connection to the secondary characters within the book. Bex and her mother are beaten by Russell, the mother’s boyfriend, and it just seems like an accepted fact no matter how much Lyric and her parents attempt to help her out. I just did not feel any connection with Bex or Shadow (who I think could have been a very interesting character and had something similar to Mira Grant’s Newsflesh characters), they just seemed to be there and we were supposed to care about them and what happens to them, but I was never able to get there.
The creation of the Alpha's and their culture in this book is what makes it stand out to me, as the other topics that Buckley tackles within the book are fairly typical to the YA genre and there were some inconsistencies within the writing, but for me the introduction of the Alpha's was enough. I was really drawn into this story especially as I got farther into the book that I really did get to the point of not wanting to put the book down. I'm excited to see where Buckley takes this series and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.