Book Reviews, YA Book Club for Writers

Book Club Review: A World Below by Wesley King

Mr. Baker’s eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. But when an earthquake hits, their field trip takes a terrifying turn. The students are plunged into an underground lake…and their teacher goes missing.

They have no choice but to try and make their way back above ground, even though no one can agree on the best course of action. The darkness brings out everyone’s true self. Supplies dwindle and tensions mount. Pretty and popular Silvia does everything she can to hide her panic attacks, even as she tries to step up and be a leader. But the longer she’s underground, the more frequent and debilitating they become. Meanwhile, Eric has always been a social no one, preferring to sit at the back of the class and spend evenings alone. Now, he finds himself separated from his class, totally by himself underground. That is, until he meets an unexpected stranger.

Told from three different points of view, this fast-paced adventure novel explores how group dynamics change under dire circumstances. Do the students of Mr. Baker’s class really know each other at all? Or do they just think they do? It turns out, it’s hard to hide in the dark.

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Our thoughts about this book:

To be honest we had little good to say about this book. It was difficult to get through. Truth be told, I still had a few pages left to finish by the time the meeting started.

So was there anything good about it?

Sure… the characters were all individuals and well-developed. Visualizing the setting was easy and well done. It was technically well-written making it easily readable.

We absolutely loved the map that was updated throughout the story by one of the characters. If you’re into books with maps, this one is cool because each time they show it, it’s updated with more locations.

So what the heck was wrong with it then?

The opening chapter.

After much discussion about what it was that made it so difficult to get into, we came to the conclusion that it’s was where the story started. So, perhaps understanding this, would make the book more enjoyable for other readers. The structure of the book chapters is set up as a chronological timeline. The story really starts at chapter two, from the perspective of the students, one month before the earthquake, then chapters count down to hours and minutes before the earthquake and then pick up again minutes and hours after the earthquake. This all makes sense. However, chapter one takes place 20 minutes before the earthquake, then chapter two jumps to one month before and carries on in chronological order from there. This misplaced chapter one also takes place in the underworld, but chapter two picks up in “our world.” This first chapter so threw us off, it took several chapters to get our head back in the story so to speak, but really we never engaged properly as readers. We discussed that if that opening chapter had been in it’s proper place chronologically, the story would have started on a better footing and the reader would more easily buy in to what was happening in the story. But starting from a place of confusion didn’t sit well with us.

We have trouble recommending this book. I did however, give it to my 10-year-old son to read and he loved it and asked me to buy more books by Wesley King (which I likely will for him). So there’s that… 🙂

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This is an unsolicited review. I purchased my copy from Amazon.ca.

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books; Reprint edition (Aug. 6 2019)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1481478236

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