Dark Life by Kat Falls. (Grades 4-7.) Scholastic Press, May 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.
In a future America where rising seas have claimed much of the land, leaving Topsiders to pack themselves in tiny stacked apartments, some people have taken to the ocean. These pioneers live on the ocean floor, farming the sea and sending crops to the government in exchange for their homesteads. This is where Ty Townsend has lived all his life. He was the first child to be born in the undersea community of Benthic Territory and he loves it there. But when outlaws threaten the safety of the settlers, Ty must do what he can to save the only home he's ever known. And when a Topsider girl appears, searching for her prospector brother, she'll join him on his quest and together they'll find that there are secrets being kept about the Dark Life.
How much did I love this book? A whole lot.
First, any book with a really well-developed speculative world gets points in my book. I was instantly intrigued by the premise (which, frankly, seems all too plausible... yikes!). Kat Falls creates a believable world in which space is at a premium. With most people living in cramped apartments stacked high on top of one another, the government has instigated an updated Homestead Act in which people who move to undersea colonies can earn their tract of land by farming it for a certain number of years. The pioneers raise fish for food and send their crops back to the States, providing a vital food source for the Topsiders.
The undersea pioneers' lives have many parallels to the American pioneers in the Old West. They must work their land to earn the deeds to their homesteads. The government taxes them by demanding a large percentage of their crops and then refuses to provide protection from the roving outlaws that attack government supply ships. The pioneers are seen as eccentric and uncouth by the Topsiders.
So, I loved the development of this intriguing world.
And then there was the action in the plot, which was pretty much nonstop. From the first page you have sharks, abandoned submarines, roving outlaws... It's a plot that sucks you in and won't let you go.
Fans of City of Ember are sure to love this one. I'd also try it on fans of Gregor the Overlander because it's got a similarly well-developed alternate world and lots of action. It's aimed at a slightly younger audience, but I'd try it on fans of The Hunger Games, too.
Dark Life will be on shelves May 1, 2010. I know that's far away, but mark your calendars because you won't want to miss this one!