Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: October 29th, 2019
Synopsis: Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.
In the last days of the twenty-first century, sea creatures swim through the ruins of London. Trapped in the abyss, humankind waivers between fear and hope—fear of what lurks in the depths around them, and hope that they might one day find a way back to the surface.
When sixteen-year-old submersible racer, Leyla McQueen is chosen to participate in the prestigious annual marathon, she sees an opportunity to save her father, who has been arrested on false charges.The Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. But the race takes an unexpected turn, forcing Leyla to make an impossible choice.
Now she must brave unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a guarded hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If Leyla fails do discover the truths at the heart of her world, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture—or worse. And her father will be lost to her forever.
The Light at the Bottom of the Sea is a spectacular debut from author London Shah, and one that’s sure to be one of the most memorable YA novels of 2019!
Let’s begin with Leyla. She’s a British-Muslim teen who not only is deeply connected to her family, but to her faith as well. Reading about her devotion to her Afghan heritage and her religion was wonderful, especially in a science fiction setting. While naive, she’s also clever, brave, and resourceful, which drew me even more to her. I love the way she grows and develops throughout the course of the story, and I felt as though I was going on her journey right along with her. Her relationship with her family, friends, and her love interest, Ari, are tender and sweet. Leyla is someone who gives everything she has to protect the people she loves. This also includes her puppy JoJo, who completely had my heart melting. Which leads me to my one and only spoiler. There’s a fight scene where JoJo is hurt badly, but she does recover. It was tough for me to read though, so for anyone who has an especially difficult time with animal cruelty, you might want to skim this thankfully short section.
The imaginative world-building is simply phenomenal. Try to picture a submerged London in 2099, the victim of an asteroid and climate change. Underwater cities, without sun, under terrorist attacks by the Anthropoids, who look human but have the ability to breathe underwater, and whose citizens are now falling to a mysterious sickness on top of everything else. The way London Shah beautifully details this vast watery world, left me feeling as though I was there. Combining the majestic ocean scenery with the futuristic technology is a brilliant combination. Also included are images of how life was above the water, before the disaster.
The storyline itself is intriguing and exciting and Leyla’s and Ari’s quest to rescue her Papa absolutely captivated me. Adding to this are the real world social ills that plague us: government corruption, climate change, terrorism, and genocide. This all comes together in an entirely unique way which opens boundless opportunities for discussion with teens.
Overall, The Light at the Bottom of the World, is a brilliant introduction to a planned duology. The only reason I’m not giving it a full 5 stars is because as much as I love Leyla, Ari, and JoJo, I think the secondary characters, some of who play pretty important parts in the story, need to be fleshed out some more. But this is a relatively small complaint. I unhesitatingly recommend this to teens and adult fans of YA science fiction who are looking for a thrilling and mesmerizing adventure with fantastic main characters, an intriguing political conspiracy thriller, and beautiful imagery. I’m eagerly looking forward to not only the next book, but also any future books by London Shah.