NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Monday, February 10, 2014

Above by Isla Morley

"Freedom...Its other name is Choosing."

Abduction and Apocalypse - a story of "survival, resilience, and hope."

First off, this novel has little to no similarity to either ROOM or to THE LOVELY BONES. To compare them is to do all of the very different stories an injustice. Start with an open mind.

Blythe is just 16 years old when she is kidnapped and taken down below ground into an abandoned missile silo in Kansas by a disaster survivalist who has created an impenetrable bunker deep in the bowels of the earth. Dobbs Hordin met Blythe when he was working in the Eudora high school library and abducts her while she is walking home from a town celebration. He's completely convinced that armegedon is imminent and has made complex and complicated plans for survival and for propagating the species afterwards. The first part of the book deals with Blythe's life while imprisoned in the silo. Every day and each event that Blythe endures in the dark and stale compartments below the Kansas plain is one of self-sacrifice and infused with desperation for freedom and return to the family and life she knew before. Dobbs makes frequent missions outside of their compound and returns with supplies and news -- but he is not to be trusted so Blythe has no way to know what is really going on in the world above. Blythe struggles as she is first required to be Dobbs's mate and then to raise a child. She tries to stay alive and mentally intact through her memories but all she can think of is getting OUT.

That day of emancipation comes after 17 years in captivity and what she finds when she and Adam open the doors of the silo is not at all what she had prayed for, hoped for, or imagined it would be. The last parts of the book deal with Blythe and Adam as they come face to face with a changed world and try to reconcile all that happened and forge a new existence. To discover that to live might just take more than to survive the worst.

The book is set in current day but sometimes the character of Blythe didn't ring true when compared to teenagers I know -- she seemed much more old-fashioned -- which was sort of off putting. There are serious religious overtones at times in the writing, though the apocalypse isn't suggested to be a punishment, but definitely it is has heavy social commentary. Sometimes the internal dialog that Blythe has with herself seems a stream of consciousness blathering that occasionally went on too long and the reader indeed gets the message that this is not the world whose memories kept Blythe  going and to which she wanted to return. Yes, there were deaths and changes. Many stereotypical characters that will be recognized by anyone who reads post-apocalyptic fiction -- the good guys and the bad guys.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. I think it's one that all ages will devour -- it would make a great movie!  Lots of good points for discussion in a book club and I'm definitely going to recommend it to young adult readers as well.

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for the ARC e-book to review.


  1. Blythe is abducted at age 16 by Dobbs, a creepy survivalist who insists he's saving her from the imminent Armageddon. She spends 18 years below ground in an abandoned missile silo near her Kansas home, bearing a son, Adam, who is 15 when Blythe kills Dobbs with a crochet needle and emerges Above to find that there actually was a disaster. The meltdown of 90 nuclear reactors some 15 years ago killed off most of the global population and left the rest deformed by radiation. In a world where most babies are Defectives, genetically Adam is a hot commodity; with the help of a sympathetic employee, he and Blythe escape the sinister facility planning to harvest his sperm and travel across the devastated landscape in search for her family. This powerful material suffers from the imperfect integration of its component parts. More than half the Novel chronicles Blythe's years in the silo - it's "Room" told from the mother's point of view but without Emma Donoghue's stylistic mastery. Moving through 18 years, the narrative throws out shards of insight into the evolution of Blythe's relationship with Dobbs and her strategies to protect Adam, but they never are seen in a full picture. Blythe's and Adam's initial post - silo wanderings nicely show her growing awareness that something is very wrong Above, but they occupy too many pages given the limited amount of space Morely has left herself to explore the new reality they must cope with. The excellent scenes following their escape, which show a shattered humanity trying to rebuild in small communities of damaged people, requires more development in Blythe's ruined hometown truly meaningful. It is a VERY moving piece of writing. 4 out of 5 stars. I would like to see this book become a movie someday.

  2. I am glad you enjoyed the book, Elizabeth. I would love doing it again with a teen book group.