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3.7 9
by Leah Bobet

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"ABOVE pulls off that rare trick of being convincing and utterly magical at the same time."
- Emma Donoghue, NYT bestselling author of ROOM

"Leah Bobet's ABOVE is that rarest of creatures, combining the outspoken honesty of a good first novel with the craft of a seasoned professional." - Elizabeth Bear, Hugo Award-winning author of DUST

Matthew has loved


"ABOVE pulls off that rare trick of being convincing and utterly magical at the same time."
- Emma Donoghue, NYT bestselling author of ROOM

"Leah Bobet's ABOVE is that rarest of creatures, combining the outspoken honesty of a good first novel with the craft of a seasoned professional." - Elizabeth Bear, Hugo Award-winning author of DUST

Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee's wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above--like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe's history and the shadows' attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home--not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.

ABOVE is the debut of an amazing new voice.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her debut novel, Bobet, the author of several short stories and poems, weaves a dark, dazzling tale about society’s outcasts and the secret world they’ve created for themselves. Safe is an underground refuge for the sick, the broken, and the freaks, far from the prying eyes of Above. Narrator Matthew is the Teller, responsible for remembering and guarding the stories of his friends and surrogate family, and life in subterranean Safe is all he’s ever known. When the only person ever to be exiled from Safe returns at the head of an army of shadows, Matthew escapes, along with several others, including the electricity-generating Jack Flash and emotionally fragile Ariel, who becomes a bee when under stress. The group navigates the treacherous world of Above as they seek to reclaim Safe and come to terms with long-hidden truths. Bobet effortlessly blends reality and fantasy, her characters are both gifted and broken—hers is a world that is simultaneously fantastic and painfully real. Heartbreaking, romantic, complex, and magical, this fantasy lingers on the senses. Ages 14–up. Agent: Caitlin Blasdell, Liza Dawson Associates. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“A dark, dazzling tale… Bobet effortlessly blends reality and fantasy, her characters are both gifted and broken – hers is a world that is simultaneously fantastic and painfully real. Heartbreaking, romantic, complex, and magical, this fantasy lingers on the senses.” -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[T]hose willing to go along with this captivating exploration of both individual and collective identity will find themselves pondering its implications long after the last page." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Bobet has crafted a genre-defying story that is as dark and twisting as the underground tunnels in which it is set. Themes of sanctuary, justice, and storytelling help tie the plot threads together and lend richness to the story… [A] multilayered tale that speaks to universal needs and desires." -- Voice of Youth Advocates

“Richly nuanced, this complicated tale touches on notions of security, truth, and autonomy with just a hint of romantic love.” -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Children's Literature - Naomi Milliner
Disturbing and depressing, this is dystopian literature at its darkest. The first-person narrator (calling him a hero is like calling tuna fish gourmet cuisine) is Matthew, also known as Teller, because it is his responsibility to tell the stories of everyone living in Safe. Safe is an underground refuge (a bit reminiscent of the City of Ember books) for forty-some misfits and self-described freaks. Among them are Jack, who was struck by lightning and, as a result, can cause objects to spark; Whisper, who communicates with ghosts; and Ariel, who grows huge wings (a la Maximum Ride) when agitated, and turns into a vicious bee when angry (which is roughly once a chapter). Ariel is also, for reasons difficult to fathom, Matthew's heartthrob. Then there is Matthew himself, whose father had lion's feet and whose mother had gills (Matthew has a bit of both). Above borrows from many famous series, including Lois Lowry's outstanding "The Giver" quartet. This author has invented a somewhat new, often hard-to-follow language (with plenty of profanity thrown in for good measure). While the language is sometimes difficult to understand, the story is even more so, including the ending. Do Matthew and Ariel stay together? Was Corner, who possessed male and female genitalia, a villain or a victim? Is there any character in this world the reader can identify with, or care about? But the biggest question of all is, do we really want, or need, to read such a bleak, humorless and hopeless tale?
VOYA - Summer Hayes
Matthew lives underground in a place called Safe. He was born there, raised with the other Freaks who are safer below ground than in the city where they might be discovered; Above is no place for people with claws, or people who can talk to ghosts or move electricity with their hands. When Matthew finds the beautiful, but very troubled, Ariel in the tunnels, he brings her back to Safe, but she rarely stays for long. It is during yet another search for Ariel that Matthew is caught by Corner, who was exiled from Safe years ago for killing one of its members. Back for revenge with an army of Shadows, Corner will stop at nothing until all of Safe is destroyed. Bobet has crafted a genre-defying story that is as dark and twisting as the underground tunnels in which it is set. Themes of sanctuary, justice, and storytelling help tie the plot threads together and lend richness to the story. The vernacular is largely unexplained, and while it certainly creates a feeling of otherworldliness, it can render the story murky at times. As both the narrator of the book and the keeper of the stories of Safe, Matthew's voice strains with the burden of being a storyteller. This is a challenging book, and much of the onus is placed on the reader, but teens willing to invest the time will find themselves rewarded with a multilayered tale that speaks to universal needs and desires. Reviewer: Summer Hayes
Kirkus Reviews
In a world where "Sick's the same as Freak Above," only below is Safe. Safe is both adjective and noun in Matthew's world, both the feeling and the subterranean haven built by claw-handed Atticus. Matthew is the Teller of Safe, the person who keeps everyone's stories and retells them. Its denizens are those unwanted Above: the mentally ill, the marginal--and the Cursed. He loves the fragile, honey-haired Ariel, whom he found on patrol in the sewers around Safe and who turns into a honeybee when under stress. Bobet starts her surreal fable/adventure explosively, with a catastrophic raid by the terrifying shadows that kills leader Atticus and scatters Safe's residents. Matthew, Ariel and two others make their way alone to a sympathetic doctor Above to regroup and, they hope, retake Safe. Above, Matthew finds his received history continually under challenge. Having been the first child born in Safe, Matthew sees it as the only reality. Occasionally interspersing Matthew's tightly filtered, present-tense account with the Tales of Safe, the author rarely gives readers an opportunity to see what may be objectively "real," making for a slightly claustrophobic, normality-inverting experience. While readers who long for concrete answers may be frustrated, those willing to go along with this captivating exploration of both individual and collective identity will find themselves pondering its implications long after the last page. (Fiction. 14 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—In this imaginative and complex novel, Matthew is the "Teller," a keeper of tales, in Safe, an underground haven for a group of beasts wishing to escape the dangers of Above. Matthew, who has clawed feet and scales on his back but otherwise can pass as human, was born in Safe and is most comfortable in its enveloping darkness. Ariel, a girl who can turn into a bee, lived most of her tormented life Above and frequently runs away, risking both her life and the secret way to Safe each time she does. Matthew swore to protect her, but his task becomes even more difficult after a banished beast comes back to Safe and kills their leader. They are forced to go Above, where Whitecoats threaten to imprison them, and the truth behind the founding of Safe could either ruin or revive their community of outcasts. This novel's greatest strength is its effective use of fantasy elements to explore important themes about acceptance, gender identity, mental illness, abuse, self harm, and medical ethics. However, the sheer volume of morals may be its greatest weakness. In addition, the unique dialect used by the characters from Safe, combined with a halting narration style, makes this book at times difficult to follow. Recommended only for the most perceptive teen readers-those who persevere will be rewarded with an enriching reading experience.—Sunnie Sette, New Haven Public Library, CT

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.46(w) x 5.60(h) x 1.20(d)
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Leah Bobet’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award. She received a 2008 emerging writers’ development grant from the Toronto Arts Council. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Customer Reviews

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Above 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
EverAfterEsther More than 1 year ago
Consider yourself warned: Above is like nothing else out there in YA. Above is a truly original and utterly engrossing read, one that is sure to leave a distinct impression on its readers. And frankly, this isn't a book that every reader will love because it's a very tricky one to read and doesn't make for light reading. However, I think it's one that most readers should at least give a chance because if it's one that you will enjoy, it will have a great impact on you. Reasons to Read: 1.Thoughtful details: Leah Bobet clearly put a lot of thought into this book, and it is so rich in meaningful topics that I'm not even sure I picked up on all of the ideas and questions it raises. The story comes across as being so detailed and curious, with a very particular story to share. I'm not really sure how to explain it, but overall the details all seemed very conscientious that actually blended together very well and added to the story. 2.Prose-like writing: I know some people who reviewed Above mentioned that they struggled with the writing; and yes, it definitely isn't written in the same style that the majority of books are written. But the way Leah writes Above just rolls off the tongue, with gorgeous phrasing and imagery that just flows off the page to meet with your imagination. It's stunning, really. But I can also see how this wouldn't be enjoyable for every reader (it all depends on taste). But it also captures the perspective of the narrator very well, and gives him a distinct voice. 3.An intelligent read: Above is one YA book that really stood out to me as an intelligent book. It's one that makes you question norms and expectations, and re-evaluate things we readily take for granted. And the way it's written can be confusing at times (and yes, a bit convoluted in some phrases) but you really need to adapt your mind to it and be willing to embrace these differences to appreciate Above. And THAT is something I thoroughly enjoyed about it. Above deals with a lot of notions and ideas, most of which fit in quite well with contemporary society. This urban fantasy portrays a remarkable story of a group of people just trying to fit in - somewhere, wherever that may be. And whether that may be with each other or not. And there isn't any easy answer to this, as Leah shows with Above, and each of the characters has a lesson to learn that will truly change their life. But moreso, the story is tragic. I'm not sure if this was intended at all, but it seemed to me that Above did a good job tackling issues of equality among people and accepting the differences and flaws of others. And it took this a step further by highlighting the dangers of rejecting others and the hurt that can stem from that. Yet I can also see how this would not be a book for every reader; it's beautiful, yes, but it requires a bit of patience to get used to the style and flow of the writing and really absorb yourself in the story. But once you do, here's a book that won't easily be forgotten. Review copy received from Scholastic Canada for review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book! It had weird names for the characters but it really made their characters come together. Loved this book, and would definetly recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy and mystery, with very littke romance. Overall great book!
MelyMoore82 More than 1 year ago
Review: Above is a story of monsters and whitecoats. But it is the whitecoats who are the monsters and the "monsters" are really the normal ones with some serious defects. The cover of the book is incredibly gorgeous. You would think the person on the cover is the main character, but this isn't so. The book is told in the POV of Matthew the teller. The characters are shaped well, but I found them to be more akward then they were relatable. The story-line was very complex and pace were slow in some areas, that I felt needed to be more action. The world setting is much like our own. Just add in shape shifters and a few people stuck in between. The writing style I had difficulty with. The dialects and wording made it hard to read the book at my normal pace. I can see that the author was probably trying to get across the lack of schooling and human interaction. It made it a challenge to read. Overall it seems more set towards the younger adult, rather then adult readers. Perhaps they may find it more appealing then myself. Don't get ne wrong It's not a bad book. It just wasn't the book for me. I do urge you to read it, it definitely brings something new to the table. I'd like to thank leah and her publicist at Scholastic for sending me the ARC for review. Visit WereVampsRomance for Giveaways, Reviews and more
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and all i can say is wow. I cant say I loved it or even say I liked it. The writing style got on my nerves because I was getting confused. The story line though is beautiful and well thought out. The characters were good, except sometimes I got super angry at the Teller. I mean, if you are looking for a lovey dovey teen book then dont get this book. This book was for people who enjoy twisted-ness and sad stories. Because personally, my thought throughout this book was, " Wow, thats really sad" I cried more then i wanted to.
chapterxchapter More than 1 year ago
I honestly didn’t know where to start with this review. Do I start with the completely diverse and unforgettable characters that Leah Bobet has created? Perhaps the world building that Bobet did when creating the two worlds, Safe and Above? Or maybe I could start with just how unique ABOVE is, and the way in which the story was told? To me, Above was like this in depth campfire story. All eyes and ears are on the storyteller. What makes a good campfire story? The weaving of the tale…And that is exactly what you will find when you read Above. The intricate ways in which Bobet has her main character, Teller aka Matthew, weave the tales of the different characters in the story was done to perfection. Bobet gives us the opportunity to read how each character managed to make their way into Safe, by telling us their backstory in the way of a tale within a tale. I felt a closer connection to many of the characters, and it seemed as though they were coming to life after every page turn. The love story between Teller and Ari was heartbreaking. It was emotional and deep, and not like any love story that I have read in a long time. It pretty much broke down to “Would you sacrifice love for everything you’ve ever known?” Gah! Just thinking about the ending again is pulling at the heart strings. I will admit that it did take me a bit to get into the book. I was getting easily confused with capitalization of the “A” in Above and the “S” in Safe. I wasn’t quite grasping the concept that they were actual places. I also had to start getting used to the different vocabulary used in the book. Because the residents of Safe fear the people/whitejackets from Above, they used different words to describe things, or didn’t have a word for something, but understood the meaning of the word somehow. I didn’t quite understand what the deal with the shadows and with Corner were as things were happening in the beginning. It took me a while into the book to get a firm grasp and understanding of them. But if you can power through the first half, and get through the nitty gritty, you will find hidden under all of that a beautiful story of perseverance, survivability, and love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KimberlySouza More than 1 year ago
“Above” by, Leah Bobet Matthew and Ariel live in an underground sanctuary called safe. They live with a group of people who are sick or disfigured in some way and because of being different they have to hide from the people above ground. When safe is attacked by shadow people Matthew and Ariel have to run above to find shelter. With only each other and a handfull of friends, they have to find a way to take safe back from the shadows.   Let me start out by saying that I can usually find something I like in every book I read and “Above” was no exception. First, Beatrice and Marybeth are my favorite characters in this story. Beatrice is tough, fearless, and extremely loyal to those she chooses to protect. Marybeth is nuturing, kind, and always wants to do the right thing. Second, I did like the messages of love, loyalty, compassion, understanding, friendship, family, and emotional growth. (I also really loved the beautiful cover)  While all of the above is true, I did not care for the story as a whole. I found that by the end of the book all I felt was disconnected and sad. I had a very hard time understanding the writing style and couldn’t seem to get use to it. (It was like trying to get a good grip on jello) The basic storyline is a good one but because of the writing style I really couldn’t appreciate it the way I would have liked to. I also didn’t understand the “romance” between Matthew and Ariel. I saw where the author was trying to go with it but it just didn’t get there for me. I felt so dictracted and confused while reading that I couldn’t really even connect with the characters. (Except for the two I mentioned above) I really, really wanted to love this book but sadly I didn’t.  Just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean that I consider it to be a bad story, (I don’t) I think that many readers will love this book and this unique writing style. 
BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
Book Review (ARC) This is definitely one of those books that you will either love or hate. It just didn’t work for me. It was really hard for me to follow along with the style of writing. Matthew is telling the story, as that’s what he does, and he uses a broken down form of English, which made it time consuming and irritating to wade through. Had it been presented in normal-everyday English I probably would have liked the story a lot better, and as I write this review, the 3/5 rating that I gave the book is feeling pretty generous. What I did like about the story was the separate chapters in which we hear the story of all of the other characters in the book. Their individual stories were more interesting than the major storyline. In the beginning I couldn’t tell if Matthew was feeling love as a father figure for Ariel, or what was going on. I didn’t have a grasp of what their age ranges were or what the author was trying to express with their feelings. I really, really, really wanted to like this story, but it just didn’t work for me. Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.