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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Secrets have a way of floating to the surface. . . . Mystery, compelling characters, and an abandoned town beneath a lake make for a must-read adventure. On the day Cassie was born, they drowned her town. The mayor flipped a lever and everyone cheered as Old Lower Grange was submerged beneath five thousand swimming pools’ worth of water. Now, twelve years later, Cassie feels drawn to the manmad…


by Meg McKinlay

Overall Book Review:

    I was thinking about the way something can slide in so easily over the top of something else–a cleaner version, a neater account, a smooth glaze over a maze of hairline fractures, a delete key threading silence across incriminating paragraphs, five thousand pools of water pouring onto an inconvenient town.

     And before long no one remembers what was under there to begin with.

     Before long, they have a hard time remembering there was ever anything there at all.

Meg McKinlay’s masterful writing sets a subtle, tense tone in the young adult novel Below.  Set in Australia, Below follows twelve year old Cassie and her fascination–which borders on obsession–with the town, Old Lower Grange, which was flooded on the day of Cassie’s birth to make way for a new dam.  This is a book that doesn’t rely upon action to propel the story, but rather atmospheric, underlying tension and rock-solid characters.  Cassie and her friendship and alliance with classmate Liam are genuine.  Categorized as a mystery, Below offers  a lot more in terms of themes of personal relevance, secrets, and the fragile truth of written and edited histories.  This is the quality of writing that can give young adult fiction a good name.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  4 religious exclamations; 1 mild obscenity.

Violence/Gore:  A past accident that resulted in property damage and a death is referred to a few times.

Sex/Nudity:  None

Mature Subject Matter:

Death of a family member; mental illness.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

None noted

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!