Going Underground

Going Underground

5.0 1
by Susan Vaught

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Del's a good kid, but he became a social outcast when his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo . . . and the police got involved. Now he's finally met a new girl, but complications threaten to bring his world crashing down again. Will Del be able to overcome his past? This must-read, all-too-believable story features a likeable guy caught in a highly

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Del's a good kid, but he became a social outcast when his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo . . . and the police got involved. Now he's finally met a new girl, but complications threaten to bring his world crashing down again. Will Del be able to overcome his past? This must-read, all-too-believable story features a likeable guy caught in a highly controversial and timely legal scenario.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest issue-driven novel by Vaught (Exposed) is an effective takedown of the laws that criminalize underage consensual sex. Del, a teenager who experimented with sexting when he was 14, has lived as a registered sex offender for the last three years, working a (literal) graveyard shift, laying low, and trying to find a college that will accept him. When he meets and starts to fall for Livia, his past comes back to haunt him, even as he works with his therapist to overturn the laws that made him a felon. His burgeoning relationship with Livia is complicated by both Del’s actions and her own past, as well as their respective families and a girl named Cherie, who is obsessed with Del. Vaught creates her characters and situations to help her message, but gives them more than enough life to carry the story, rather than feeling like puppets (the addition of a cursing and flatulent parrot named Fred helps). Del’s story—alternating between flashbacks and the present day—is tragic, frustrating, and believable, and teens should have no problem empathizing. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Amanda MacGregor
Del is seventeen, working in a graveyard, and, as per a court order, visiting a therapist at least twice a month. Del's story is slow to unravel, moving from the present to three years ago. His life now is a shadow of what it was. Though he remains a good student, he is barred from getting into most colleges and, thanks to his felony conviction, bears a stigma that will impossible to erase. Del spends most of his time digging graves, talking to his pet parrot, and trying to keep out of trouble. When he meets a girl at the graveyard, he longs to get close to her, but is terrified of telling her about his past. In bits and pieces, Del reveals that when he was fourteen, he and his girlfriend, Cory, who was thirteen, sent each other sexual pictures. While they did not have sex, they did touch each other in sexual ways. These pictures land Del, Cory, and some friends in trouble. Because Del was the age of consent (here, fourteen) and Cory was not, only Del gets charged with three counts of rape of a child (though they did not have sex and their sexual contact was consensual), as well as charged with possession of child pornography. Now, three years later, he is urged to testify to help change the laws, but Del is hesitant to relive his trouble again. Del's story is painful and complex. Because what happened is revealed so slowly, readers have the time to get to know Del, understand what happened, and judge for themselves if his sentencing was just. Strong writing bolsters the vivid characters, from Harper the drunken graveyard owner, to Cherie the obsessed and misguided classmate. The timely topic of sexting and all of its unforeseen consequences will be eye-opening for readers. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—From the get-go, it is obvious that 17-year-old Del made a huge mistake in his past. He describes himself as "that guy who did awful stuff," but as his story slowly comes to light through flashbacks, readers will form their own opinions, even though in the eyes of the law Del is a sex offender. When he was 14, he was charged as a felon because of sexting and consensual relations with his girlfriend, who was only 13 at the time. Fast-forward three years and Del has no chance for a normal life. No college will take him and the only work he can find is digging graves. Chapter headings keep readers on track with the time frame, present day or three years earlier, but overall the pacing may be a bit slow for some. Vaught keeps the story from getting too dark with a new love interest, a talking pet parrot, and an interesting playlist that Del compiles for his life. This ripped-from-the-headlines story is heartrending but also hopeful when Del testifies to bring sense to the current legislation. As a cautionary tale, this novel gives teens pause to consider their actions under the law.—Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA
Kirkus Reviews

Del, 17, high-school senior, convicted felon and registered sex offender for three years, keeps his head down at school, digs graves part-time and stays numb with the help of his iPod playlists.

The only child of loving parents, Del has a therapist, probation officer, parrot, one friend, an unwelcome admirer and no prospects. Through flashbacks, Del unfolds the story surrounding his "crime," the event that's derailed his life (even community colleges won't let him apply). When the pretty girl he's noticed visiting the cemetery introduces herself, their mutual attraction helps him acknowledge his repressed feelings, rekindling his hope for a future. Vaught, a practicing psychiatrist, knows her territory and portrays the senselessly harsh consequences of criminalizing normal behavior in lucid, convincing detail. She weakens her case by making white, middle-class Del a paragon: thoughtful, smart, handsome, kind, mature and good with parrots—he has assets and support most teens in trouble can only dream of. This miscarriage of justice hasn't changed him, just his interactions with the world. Teens lacking Del's personal and material resources face more daunting obstacles.

A valuable look at the downside of prosecutorial discretion and its impact on teens, but Del's privileged background and saintly character won't reflect many readers' experiences. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.60(w) x 5.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Susan Vaught is the author of My Big Fat Manifesto, Trigger, Exposed, and other novels, as well as Oathbreaker, which she coauthored with her son, JB Redmond. She is also a practicing psychologist.

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Going Underground 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have this book at my school and i checked it out id rather get it at the libary than read it on my nook .