3.7 9
by Leah Bobet

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An extraordinary debut urban fantasy about dangers outside and in. "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…  See more details below


An extraordinary debut urban fantasy about dangers outside and in. "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.

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Editorial Reviews

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
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.)
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
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?
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)

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
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Barnes & Noble
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File size:
643 KB
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.

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