Above – Leah Bobet
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012
When Matthew finds a girl hiding in the tunnels under the city, alone and terrified with wings fading on her back, he knows exactly what to do. There is a place for people like them, the people who can never belong in the world Above, and for Matthew it is the only home he has ever known. He takes the damaged Ariel there, sure she will be protected. Then comes the unimaginable – Safe is invaded, its people scattered, fleeing Above where just existing is enough to put them in terrible danger. Matthew knows they have to reclaim their sanctuary if they are going to survive. But when their exile has come at the hands of one of their own, how will they ever feel Safe again?
Bobet’s debut novel is a YA urban fantasy that is reminiscent of both Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and the X-Men, and if you think that sounds like an ambitious combination, you’d be right. It doesn’t always quite work – the explanations for where these strange and gifted people come from is in particular very haphazard – but where it does work, it’s excellent. Matthew is a wonderful narrator, flawed but deeply sincere, and the story itself has both a gripping pace and a real strength of heart.