In the last days of thetwenty-first century, sea creatures swim through the ruins of London. Trappedin the abyss, humankind wavers between fear and hope-fear of what lurks in thedepths around them, and hope that they might one day find a way back to thesurface.
When sixteen-year-oldsubmersible racer Leyla McQueen is chosen to participate in the city's prestigious annual marathon, she sees an opportunity to save her father, whohas been arrested on false charges. The Prime Minister promises the championwhatever their heart desires. But the race takes an unexpected turn, forcingLeyla to make an impossible choice.
Now she must braveunfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep itssecrets, all the while dealing with a guarded, hotheaded companion she neverasked for in the first place. If Leyla fails to discover the truths at theheart of her world, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture-or worse.And her father will be lost to her forever.
About the Author
London Shah is a British-born Muslim of Afghan descent. Shelives in London, via England's beautiful North. When she's not busy reimaginingthe past, plotting an alternate present, or dreaming up a surreal future, she'smost likely drinking copious amounts of tea, eating all the sweets and cakes,strolling through Richmond Park or along the Thames, getting lost on an eveningin the city's older, darker alleyways (preferably just after it's rained), listeningto punk rock, or losing herself in a fab sci-fi/fantasy film or book. If shecould have only one superpower, it would be to breathe underwater.
Read an Excerpt
LONDON, CHRISTMAS DAY, 2099
The Old World Heritage Society demands a respectable distance be kept from all revered ancient London sites. This respect can take a deep dive into one of those endless chasms in the wild because honestly, I just don't understand what's so sacred about ruins.
I turn down the blaring punk rock music ricocheting off the submersible's interior and peer into the murky green-gray depths once more for any hint of a watchful Eyeball; the tiny spherical cameras could be anywhere. The current looks clear. I steer past the fluorescent face of Big Ben and edge closer to the center of the former Houses of Parliament, toward the soft illumination of the Memorial Candle. A small number of patterned rabbitfish remain transfixed by the commemorative shaft of light. A traditional reminder of the looming anniversary, the lilac ray beams up through the city's waters as far as the eye can see.
God, how I love staring at it every year.
Sometimes the Memorial Candle is all of humankind echoing up through layer after layer of current and wave and pressure, breaking through the liquid skin of the surface and reminding the universe: Hey, we're still alive, still going down here! Other times the glow is a greeting across forever, a trillion Old World hugs and laughter and memories and dreams reaching down through the ages, lighting our way.
Sixty-five years tomorrow. Only sixty-five years ago all of this was air, not water. Like, there was nothing all around. Nothing in between structures, below people, or above their heads. Humanity carried on outside as if they were safely inside. Imagine being out in the open without the security of the water, exposed to the whole universe like that? Surreal!
My Bracelet flashes. I check the caller ID on the plain flexi-band around my wrist. "Accept."
Theo's holographic face materializes above my Bracelet, his smile reaching his pale blue eyes. "You on your way, Leyla? There's a money pot with your name on it. We have a clear window — pair of Eyeballs passed by not ten minutes ago, so we're good for another hour. You'd think they'd take Christmas Day off, but nope."
The money pot. I straighten, pushing my shoulders back. I really, really need it. Being a driving instructor doesn't pay nearly enough, and if I get the reply I'm waiting on, then I'll need every penny of the pot. I have to win today's sprint.
As if he's guessed what I'm thinking, Theo nods. "You've got this, I know it. And I know you don't want to borrow but —"
"Hey, I'm fine, really I am. But thanks. On my way now."
"Great, we're all gathered by the bridge. Everyone's here. And, erm, Tabby's getting, you know, 'impatient.' Ouch, Tabs!"
His twin sister's face squeezes into the frame, with Tabby rolling her piercing blue eyes. "Ignore him, Leyla. Hmm, bet you're out by the Memorial Candle, all lost at sea again and —"
"Oi," Theo says. "Just cos you're a bot, doesn't mean everyone is. Ouch!"
Every time Theo says "Ouch" I actually flinch as I grin; Tabby's nails are always pointy and red, as if she's drawn blood in the jab.
"I'll be there in a minute," I say. "And, Tabs, leave Theo alone!"
The Clash's guitar riff resumes its rightful place at full decibel as I rise. The current is calm. I push the throttle all the way forward and hurtle toward Tower Bridge and my friends.
Light from the countless solar spheres a thousand feet up on the ocean's surface highlights the watery depths. Beneath me, early morning London is a giant interlocking puzzle of domed titanium buildings interspersed with acrylic transport tunnels — all shadowy shapes and misty lights. The inky body of the Thames passes by, the memory of a river. Londoners feel attached to the legendary trail of deeper water, and its former banks are kept perennially lit. The city glimmers around me. Festive and commemorative signs are everywhere. I approach Tower Bridge where the sprint will begin.
The sight of the bridge always lifts my spirits. I've spent more time hanging out here with the twins than any other location in London, our grouped subs giving the adults plenty to moan about.
Rapid movement near the Tower of London to my left catches my eye and I squint: Is someone watching me? But it's just a glistening oarfish slipping out of one of the upper windows of the White Tower. The creature panics, heading straight into the crab-like machines laboring on the tower's moss-ridden walls, before its flat silver body dives out of sight. I dip and zoom through the construction's middle, seaweed hanging off every remaining part of the smashed up bridge deck, and spot the other subs waiting for me.
The twins are in their blue twin-seated craft, a joint seventeenth birthday present given to them earlier this year. I can just about make out their faces. Even in this murky environment, their platinum-blond hair is clearly visible, and the world is instantly that much brighter.
I squint at my competition. Eight subs of various sizes and models — all the usual contenders. I mustn't underestimate Malik; he's been paying me for lessons, and he's getting faster every week. We each chip in with the money pot, and the winner takes it all. Losing always hurts, because I know the coming week will be tough minus my contribution to the prize pot. I used to sprint solely for the thrills, but things are different now. And this week's festive pot is much bigger than usual.
"All right, let's do this." Keung, contender and organizer, addresses us all via group broadcast. "The check-in cars are ready and waiting. Stop points are: St. Paul's, Clio House on Trafalgar Square, and finally, the Island Housing Project. Usual rules apply — anyone misses a single check-in and the sprint is forfeit for them, et cetera, et cetera. Theo's monitored the route for Eyeballs, and we should be all right for traffic violations for the next hour. Any questions?"
None. We move to line up at the walkway of the bridge. I give everything the once-over.
"Okay ... Ready?" Keung asks.
Here we go. As usual, I'm driving Tabby's compact but powerful single-seated scarlet number. The cockpit offers a 360-degree scope of my surroundings. Perfect. The more I can see, the safer I am. I hope. I scan once more for the telltale blip of an Eyeball hovering in the depths, despite Theo's assurance. I can't afford a traffic violation; three of those and my driving instructor's permit is revoked. Thankfully he's never wrong, though, and there's no sign of the titanium spheres.
Theo's a technical whiz kid and will happily spend entire weeks fiddling around with the bits on the huge table in his room. It'd drive me up the walls if I didn't get out into the waters regularly. He's studied and recorded the Eyeballs' movements — the exact routes and shifts of the remote cameras.
"And in three ... two ... one ... GO!"
The vessels move. The water churns and heaves and my sub sways. Bismillah. I glance below, push forward on the joystick, and dive until I'm just above the enormous solar-fuel storage pipes. Phosphorous fibers are strewn over them, the celebratory illuminated strands mingling with the green algae worlds inhabiting their surfaces.
The music resumes with an album from the last decade, and I race toward St. Paul's, climbing, falling, and swerving in time to the beat. My mood soars, my heart expands.
I hurtle over a colossal protein plant, before whizzing above rows of obsolete rooftops jutting out from the ground like Old World gravestones. The brilliant white light of the tall streetlamps illuminates the shadowy grid of streets like ancient moonlight from forgotten skies.
St. Paul's looms into view. The check-in car hovers above the cathedral, its lights on the antiquated landmark's partial dome, and a humongous halibut descends inside via the open roof. The destruction was the result of an Anthropoid attack two decades ago — one of the terrorists' most brutal. I f lash until the car acknowledges my attendance. Lights appear in the block of flats next door, the cube-like resin and acrylic structure blinking into life. London's waking up.
I tear away in the direction of Trafalgar Square and zoom through street after street, passing block after block, over all the ruin and decay and life, of the city's seabed.
My biggest weakness when racing is I'm easily distracted. It's maddening. A sight here or there and my thoughts drift and I'm lost at sea, as Tabs puts it. Not good.
Traffic's still at a bare minimum this early, only the odd craft around. I get to Clio House in record time. The giant construction is Great Britain's largest historical reenactment hall yet, but I prefer the twins' Holozone; it's more private and we never have to dress up! I check in and move on.
A quick glance and there's a car way behind me, its lights low. It might not be a contender, but I'm not taking any chances, not today. There's a f lash of illumination below as the first Underground train of the day whooshes through the transparent tunnel, startling the nearby creatures as usual. I dip toward it, skimming the debris on the ocean floor. The corroded skeleton of a bus thickly carpeted with moss and a telephone box trapped under an enormous statue — a man riding some kind of animal — lie coated in breadcrumb sponge. Both have attracted a group of inquisitive herring. I press on.
Last check-in now. I head straight for the towering shadows of the Island Housing Project. The lofty housing looms ahead.
The towers were built to reach out above the waterline after the floods, part of another failed global initiative. Scientists hadn't foreseen the devastating levels the water would finally settle at, and the housing was fully submerged — now with no connection whatsoever to the world above.
The check-in car's waiting above one of the rooftops. The whole roof is witness to Old World hope, rigged with all manner of survival resources, including a helipad. I hurtle away, headed straight back for the twins at Tower Bridge. A glimmering shoal of salmon split and dart out of the sub's way, flickering in unison. My eyes narrow as the water ahead clears. I stiffen.
It wasn't the sub that caused the salmon to scatter.
A bulky shadow rises from the depths, pausing in front of me.
My pulse races. It's oily black and as wide as the sub. I don't recognize it, which means it could be anything. It turns its head and swims straight for me. Two narrow milky-white slits for eyes stare as it advances. What the —
I swerve, gripping the throttle and joystick tight, and luckily miss the animal by inches. But the turn is too sharp, and the sub lurches before spinning out of control. I take deep breaths as I counter the spinning by repositioning the wings.
I mustn't let the panic win. I'm safe. I'm at home, in London. This isn't the wild, and there's nothing to fear.
At last the whirling slows down, enough for me to notice the creature's shadow slinking away back into the depths. I shudder. Movement ahead catches my eye and a circular yellow sub speeds past me, toward Tower Bridge. Malik. No.
I push the throttle all the way forward, pull back on the joystick, and climb waves that have turned choppier. Come on. I see the bridge, its pulsing lights beckoning me. Malik is directly below me now, racing toward it. I head into a forty-five degree dive at full speed. I hold my breath. Come on, come on ... Malik is fast.
But I'm faster. I pass his sub and keep pushing forward as I level. Please let me be the first. My eyes scan the scene, spotting only the twins' craft. I lean right, soaring over the bridge and working my lights like mad. My Bracelet f lashes, the twins' voices bursting into the sub.
"YOU DID IT!"
Yes. My shoulders relax. If the solicitor's firm gets back with a yes — please, God — then the money's as good as spent and I'd have been in trouble without it.
I run a diagnostics and the sub's fine. Phew. And I know I didn't hit the creature, thank goodness. What even was that thing? I should spend more time on practicing stabilizing the sub when it whirlpools like that. Conquer that panic somehow. A freefall. It's the only way.
No. I'm never, ever trying a freefall again. One terminated attempt months ago was enough terror for a lifetime.
As we wait for everyone to finish, the twins and I finalize plans for when I join them later this morning. The idea is to mostly feast, play endless games in the Holozone, and watch the live draw for the London Submersible Marathon — the annual obstacle race through the capital.
The arduous course is a big deal — huge. But there are only a hundred places, so nobody really expects to land one. Imagine having the chance to race an obstacle course as big and dramatic as the London Marathon! To ensure the actual route itself remains a secret, additional race boundaries are randomly installed throughout the city, and every year the exact obstacles and challenges are always concealed, too. It's an incredibly tough undertaking. Thrilling, but seriously demanding. And always perilous.
"Enjoy this morning with your family, won't you, Leyla?" Theo says.
My insides do this wild f lip thing as I remember I'm this close now to the best present ever — some real McQueen family time — and I can't stop grinning as I head home.
I speed up once more, belting out the lyrics to the '20s pop-rock playing. At last I steer onto Bankside, slowing down as I pass my long block of flats. The one-story basic construction isn't much to look at but remains watertight — I'm lucky. I do a quick scan of the immediate area to ensure there are no vessels lurking in the shadows today.
The sub grounds to a halt by my own bay on the parking wall, and I dip its nose into position, maneuvering until I hear it lock into place. The vehicle's seal emerges from around the edges of its body, a large oval-shape of robust, watertight material extending to meet the seal surrounding the dock, I shift around in the seat, my smile wide. I'm this close now. With the seals joined and the vessel safely locked and watertight, any trapped water is sucked out. The craft's dome then slides back just as the hatch to the building releases, granting me access. I unbuckle and jump down into the compact space. Once the exterior door is secure again behind me, the interior hatch is released and I rush through into the long and gloomy corridor.
Covering my nose to block out the wretched damp, I sprint along the resin floor, passing rows of gray, metal doors on either side. The pale-blue walls are full of cracks, the paint chipped, and blotchy mold spreads in all directions.
Soon as I gain entry to the flat, Jojo leaps around, wagging her tail. "It's almost time, baby." I shed my jacket and pet the Maltese pup.
I bounce on my toes in the narrow hallway outside the lounge, catching my breath. Any second now. Jojo's too intrigued to remain still. The fluffy white puppy circles my legs, only taking a break to watch the thin lounge door with her ears cocked.
Heavenly notes rise from behind the door, melodies of Christmases past. Jojo takes a step back, her brown eyes fixed on the entry. I scoop her up and take a deep breath.
The door slides open. I step into the compact room and my hand f lies to my mouth, fathoms of warmth spreading inside me. Jojo leaps down, wagging her tail and jumping around, but I can only focus on one thrilling sight.
Papa stands by the expansive window.
"Salaam, Pickle! So what do you think?" He smiles his usual lopsided smile, his bright hazel eyes twinkling. He points at the pale red festive jumper he's wearing.
My pulse races; I stare, unblinking. "Salaam, Papa. I ... I think it looks pretty fab." Warmth f lushes my cheeks.
The "festive" design he's wearing is actually a map of some far-f lung solar system that fascinates my papa with its remoteness and possibilities. All the colorful planetary spheres look like baubles though, and over time it's become his "Christmas" jumper. It was a gift from Mama, before I was even born.
I should say something, but I stare, speechless, the corners of my mouth stretched.
"There's my little queen."
I turn toward the soft voice. My petite mama stands by the far wall, beside the towering turquoise vase she painted for Papa, smiling with arms outstretched.
"Come on, my beautiful gul — come give Mama your strongest hug.
My little Leyla."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Light at the Bottom of the World"
Copyright © 2019 London Shah.
Excerpted by permission of Disney Book Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5 Stars THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD is a story of loss, friendship, conflict, and hope as a girl seeks her missing father and finds help in unexpected places. A lush underwater world full of danger and deception, and a likable heroine, readers are sure to keep turning the pages to the very end. I really liked the whole premise for this story and then diving in to the rich underwater world and culture. I also really adored the characters, including Leyla's lovable dog. I do have to say that Ari was my favorite character though. He seemed consistent and could convey a lot with a look or a few words. Plus he's just fiercly awesome. For readers who enjoy conspiracy stories, this one has a massive one. And for readers who enjoy friendships and sweet romance, you'll find that here too. Then there is all the cool tech (like I seriously want a submarine like Layla's!) both for the people and for the government. I really liked the way Leyla's religion was weaved into the story. The story builds in intensity to a very climatic ending that turns sweet before a slight cliffhanger. I'm curious what will happen next in this series. I did have a few hang-ups with the story as well. Leyla's actions sometimes were a bit overly dramatic and unbelievable. I also didn't quite follow all the fight scenes when some things happened that could have been avoided. Then I was shocked that with all the weapons on the submarine that there was nothing to tear a net or snag it. That just didn't work for me. The only other thing is there is a lot of British swearing and a few places of gruesome violence, which might bother some. In the end, was it what I wished for? This was definitely a page-turner with likable characters, an exciting plot, and a sweet romance. Overall, I enjoyed reading it. Content: Some mild swearing as well as lot of the British "b" word, and some gruesome violence. Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher from NetGalley through the Fantastic Flying Book Club, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.
“Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters. The great Old Floods had done more than exile humanity to the depths of the oceanic abyss. They had also ravaged humankind of all faith and, like expiring pockets of air, sucked out any belief they would ever again live in peace.” The Light at the Bottom of the World is set in the year 2099, about sixty-five years after a cataclysmic climate event made the ocean’s waters rise and the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. What remains of humanity lives 1,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, stuck in the past and afraid of the unknown. Shah absolutely nails the atmosphere. Even though I have never done more than snorkeling, I could envision the world that she created. Dark and mysterious, a never-ending expanse for exploration but danger is in every crevice. The world-building is fantastic and the tone of writing captures the anxiety and fear of what lurks outside of safety. Because while humanity has continued, it’s as dangerous as ever. “Beneath us, the undergrowth is an endless expanse of ancient trees, all uprooted and toppled over one another. The mass of plants – a mixture of long dead and evolved new life – ripples as if the ground itself is alive, whispering, plotting.” The writing is descriptive without being over-burdened, and as a result the book is a fast-paced read. I suffered from quite a reading slump in October, but I found myself breezing through the book when I picked it up. I did find the plot’s pacing to be a little uneven in the middle compared to the beginning and end of the book, but I never thought the plot dragged. Leyla McQueen is a sixteen-year-old British Muslim girl who enjoys punk rock and racing submersibles. I am not going to lie, I loved that she was blaring The Clash when we first meet her! Leyla’s parents are both of Afghan descent and I love how much her heritage means to her and her family. She’s been living alone for the past three months since her father was arrested, but no one will tell her exactly where he is. Which isn’t shady at all. Light is told in Leyla’s first-person perspective, and like how it feels like she’s just narrating the story to her diary in a way, though. Her anxiousness and Virgo nature really come through in how the story is told. I also appreciated Leyla’s character development in the course of the book, which I can’t discuss because of spoilers. While I absolutely loved the plot and world-building, I struggled a bit connecting with Leyla. I love her strength and courage to do whatever it takes to find and rescue her beloved papa, but this is a book that nails the sixteen-year-old perspective. This isn’t a bad thing at all – on the contrary, I think teenagers acting like teens need to be more prevalent in YA – but this is the case of right character, wrong reader. Other than the atmosphere, I think my favorite part is the underlying social and political commentary. Light is set in a society which is steeped in nostalgia – they revere everything “ancient” to the point that they would rather restore historic buildings rather than deal with current social issues. Overall, I found this to be a solid debut fantasy story and am looking forward to finding out what happens next. While I didn’t connect with the characters as much as other readers, this is very much a Me Being in My 30s Thing. I found the atmosphere amazing and thought Shah did a good job describing the setting, which made up my lack of character connection.
I was really excited for this debut, but it unfortunately fell a little flat to me. The premise is really interesting and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. However, it felt more like a draft to me rather than a finished product. The dialogue really turned me off--the main character asks far too many questions, which seem only to be so we the readers can get a lot of information quickly. It didn't come across as natural. The scenes jumped around a lot, and I often caught myself wondering how we got to certain parts when the page or paragraph before didn't lead me into it. Negatives aside, I really enjoyed the characters, and they were really what made me give it an extra star. I felt connected to them and invested in their journey--both personal and plot wise. I liked the representation of the Muslim religion and foods from the country of the main character's origins. I think it gave it a solid foundation and grounded the story for readers. The book is meant for something far larger than its fun, fantastical setting. It often pushed this point, especially in the ending. This can be a turn off since it feels like it's being pushed at you, but overall I think it's a strong connection readers can make between this fantasy world and our real lives.
Set in a dystopian underwater world about 100 years in the future, The Light at the Bottom of the World pits a talented young woman against the entirety of the British government. The seas rose and the people adapted. They waterproofed their dwellings and learned to travel in tunnels and submersibles. Yet, all these precautions cannot keep them safe from the things that dwell in the deep, things derived from nature and the evil Anthropoids who were created by man. These half man-half beast fish creatures were spliced up to help the populace adapt to the watery conditions, but they developed a rage and weren’t able to be trusted. They are now banished and hunted, only to become terrorists. Leyla McQueen is trying to make it through the day-to-day existence at the bottom of the sea. She and her friends like to race their submersibles, test new tech, and play jokes on their virtual maids. Things were going well until her father went to work one day and didn’t come back home. Leyla has tried repeatedly to contact the police and get any sort of attention to his case, but she has been stonewalled. She sees a chance when she is picked to race in the annual London Submersible Marathon where the winner gets to ask the PM for one wish… Will she be able to win against the one hundred other racers? What are her chances? And that’s just in the first quarter of the book… Shah flips the “big race” trope and puts it at the beginning of the book. What if the main character wins the race and still doesn’t get the golden prize? Leyla has her friends to help her see through the conspiracy of her father’s arrest, and her grandfather to remind her of her Muslim faith and give her the protection she needs. An independent investigation. There goes Leyla. This is a quality YA read. An imaginative setting that allows for so much room to explore with technology and a cultural shift. Leyla is a fully-formed character who is fun to follow along. She is forced to grow up fast and use all the strength and love her parents have given her. A great character who Shah writes a nonstop plot for. I had a small problem with the rounded-corner science, but the reveals were good. I was happy to hang on to the propeller and go for the ride! Augmented dolphins, an Oscar Wilde hologram navigator, and love for family that won’t be denied.
The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah is a book with a fascinating concept but mediocre execution. The plot is thrilling at first but quickly becomes like many other dystopian novels, and the main character seems immature. I did enjoy the world building, however, and I believe the submerged world will appeal to many. This book tells the story of the Earth in 2099, where life now exists under the sea. Leyla, who has just won a submersible race, is denied her wish to free her father and thus sets out on a journey to save her father herself. However, the government is hot on her heels, and danger lurks in the depths of the waters. What drew me to this book was the idea of submarine racing. This is such a unique idea, and I couldn’t wait to see how it would play out. Unfortunately, only a small chunk of the book is dedicated to this, which was a little disappointing. After the race ends, the story reverts to a basic dystopian, and the plot falls flat. ❀ UNIQUE SETTING One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed is the setting. Shah has created a vision of the world in a post-apocalyptic future, and the history and logic is well-developed. Every little detail including why humans live under the water and why certain technologies exist is accounted for, and it is easy to see how much planning went into this book. I haven’t seen a book about an underwater dystopia before, so this was a fresh concept for me. ❀ IMMATURE MAIN CHARACTER I am still not entirely sure how I feel about Leyla. On one hand, I loved how determined she is to make things right and rescue her dad, but on the other, I feel like she is a bit immature. To me, something about the way she speaks is not always fitting for her age, and her recklessness bothered me. That being said, I still wanted to support her on her journey as she does have a touching motive. The Light at the Bottom of the World is a book that I neither loved nor hated. There are certain aspects I loved such as the submarine racing and the world building, however much of it fell flat, including the main character. I do still think that many will enjoy this one, as perhaps I am just tired of dystopian.
This book was received as an ARC from Disney Book Group - Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. After this book I was in complete shock! I was blown away by the concept of this book and the climax driven from the race really opened my eyes and brought a lot of things to light (literally!). I could see myself with Leyla and racing with the sea creatures in hopes of saving her father who has been arrested. Then during the race especially when the prize will be whatever the winner desires granted by the prime minister. Then things take an unexpected turn as twists and turns start to emerge and things go out of left field for Leyla and she has to make the toughest decision ever that could cost her father's life. This book will leave you at the edge of your seat and leave you speechless at the end. I could see a potential series here and if it does form, I know our teen book club will go crazy for it. We will consider adding this title to our YFiction collection at the library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD is a compelling and atmospheric YA fantasy/science fiction. In the future, the world has been completely flooded, the surface rendered unlivable and humanity lives under the water in pods with submersibles. Seasickness, a form of depression, has taken hold and is a very big problem. People also face terrorism threats by anthropoids, humanoid creatures that can breathe underwater and were created by people to help them adjust but ultimately are at war with people instead. Leyla is 16, and her father has been arrested under the guise that he was helping people with seasickness to take their own lives, a big crime. However, Leyla knows this is unfounded, but she cannot get through to the proper authorities or a lawyer who will take the case or even find out where her father is being held. When she is lucky enough to gain entry into the London Marathon, a dangerous submarine race, she knows she must win- especially since the prize is a request of the prime minister which will be granted, and Leyla knows this is her chance to request her father's freedom. After the race, Leyla's life is again changing, and the truths she thought she knew are murky at best. In her quest, she not only begins to question herself but the life that the government has built and the value of truth. What I loved: This is a book about family, truth/lies, and the lengths one will go to to help the ones you love. Leyla is tenacious, courageous, and absolutely fantastic as a heroine. I loved following her journey in this book. I also adored Ari, who we slowly get to know through the book. The world-building here is top notch, and I really felt like I could imagine this future and the people in it. I seriously wish I could have Leyla's submarine (it's incredible!). This is a book that easily sucks you in and keeps you turning pages quickly to the end. What left me wanting more: The only thing is that there is a cliffhanger at the end! I wish there was more, and I will be eagerly anticipating the next book in the series. Final verdict: Engrossing, compelling, and fantastically built, THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD is a book that raises interesting questions all while entertaining the reader completely. Highly recommend for fans of YA fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi. This book does not disappoint with incredible characters and beautiful world-building. Please note that I received an ARC. All opinions are my own.
The Light at the Bottom of the World is a book with a lot of heart, and a sensitive one at that. I found Leyla to be a wonderful main character; she was strong, determined, and so very afraid of the world around her, but that never stopped her from following her heart and doing what needed to be done. In a world full of strong female characters, there seems to be a lack of characters who are on the softer side of strong, more resilient and determined than battle ready and punching faces in, which I found refreshing. It's also full of much needed representation. Leyla is a British Muslim girl who believes. She believes in hope, in a world that has continually lied to her and let her down, in the people around her to do the right thing, in God, in herself (though she struggles with her fear and anxiety) and it is that quality, that steady belief, that sees her through her challenges. After her Papa is falsely accused of a crime and taken away by the authorities, she will stop at nothing to find out what happened and get him back. You can't help but feel for her as you watch her risk everything to save the ones she loves. Also of note is the unique setting, taking place in a post-apocalyptic scenario where the human race was forced under water after an asteroid hit. It's wonderfully imaginative with its descriptions of sea life and futuristic technology designed to help humans adapt to their new home. In an effort to assist humans with the aftermath and rebuilding, they've created Anthropoids who are humans enhanced with technology meant to help clear the debris post asteroid, only they've turned against those who created them without any explanation and the government is doing little to actually help their citizens-- too obsessed with returning back to the surface in a world they can't let go. The Light at the Bottom of the World takes you on a non-stop adventure with some of the best companions, including a holographic, flamboyant, popular literary figure, a puppy, a girl who is desperate to save her family, and the boy who keeps secrets while keeping her safe. You will laugh, you will cry, you will soar and ache and love, but most of all, you will believe. And that in itself, is a very specific and powerful sort of magic.
The totally stunning cover and concept of humans living at the bottom of the ocean made this a must read for me. From the watercraft and underwater homes to the sea creatures, the world-building is magnificent. When Leyla pilots her submersible around London landmarks and during the thrilling marathon, the imagery is outstanding. And the conflict! One roadblock after another is thrown into the mix, and nothing comes easy in her quest to find her father. She's a brave and determined protagonist, but makes some questionable decisions at times before thinking things through. Ari is a man of mystery and caution, but a perfect balance to Leyla's overly trusting nature. Leila's world is brimming with mystery and political undercurrents, and she's forced to question many of her beliefs and things she's been told. And that cliffhanger will steal your breath away! Although the pacing wavers here and there, I enjoyed this highly creative, underwater adventure and will be anxiously anticipating the next book in the series. Add this one to your TBR! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.