Tots to Teens & in beTween - Dark Life (Dark Life, book #1) by Kat Falls

Goodreads now has a Google Preview of Dark Life available here.
Title: Dark Life
Author: Kat Falls
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: May 1, 2010
Format: Hardback, 304 pages
Genre: Dystopian YA
Other Books in the Series:
Rip Tide (book #2)

Summary from back of book:
The oceans rose, swallowing up the lowlands.

Earthquakes shattered the continents, toppling entire regions into the rising water. Now, humans live packed into stack cities. The only ones with any space of their own are those who live on the ocean floor, the Dark Life.

Ty has spent his whole life living deep undersea, helping his family farm the ocean floor. But when outlaws attack his homestead, Ty finds himself in a fight to save the only home he has ever known. Joined by Gemma, a girl from the Topside who has come subsea to look for her brother, Ty ventures into the frontier's rough underworld and discovers some dark secrets to Dark Life... secrets that threaten to destroy everything.
Due to global warming causing the land to flood and the eastern seaboard to sink into the ocean, there's not enough land for people to live on and barely enough to grow food. In an attempt to solve the food and energy shortages, the Commonwealth government allowed settlers to move under the ocean, to own their own land, as long as they harvested kelp and fish and maintained the energy resources for those who live topside. Engineers and scientist jumped on the chance to create underwater homesteads and develop farming practices that would help feed people. Many of these scientists also became some of the first underwater settlers of the Benthic Territory. The promise of having your own home and a hundred acres after two years of working the land draws many more people looking to make a new life. Despite the fact that many of the settlers are some of the best minds in their fields and provide them with food, Topsiders believe it unnatural not to live on land. They call the Benthic Territory settlers "Dark Life" a reference to bacteria that the settlers find insulting. Then throw in the fact that lack of sun exposure makes them very pale and eating lots of bioluminescent fish give them a slight glow, and the settlers seem even less than a part of Commonwealth society.

Ty was the first child born under the sea, and of the 22 children in the territory, he's the only teenager. His discovery of Gemma (a teenage topsider) gives him the first opportunity to socialize with someone his own age. Gemma is looking for her brother who is living in the territory, but nobody seems to know him. Gemma is amazed by life under the ocean, all of the space available, and the fact that settlers actually know who each other are. She's also quite intrigued by the stories of Dark Gifts. According to some doctors, a child born in the territory had his brain altered by the constant pressure and he developed sonar (like a dolphin). Ty is very uncomfortable with Gemma's constant questions about Dark Gifts, mostly because it's used as an excuse by Topsiders to ostracize settlers' children.

While helping Gemma find her brother, problems with the local Seablite Gang. Instead of sticking to raiding government supply ships, they've started attacking homesteads, cutting off power causing the homes to sink and valuable livestock to be lost. The local ranger hates being stationed in the territory and all the people that live there, and never leaves the docking ring above the ocean. The Commonwealth decides that the settlers must bring in the outlaws, dead or alive. If they don't, the government will cut all supplies to the territory: no liquagen, no medical, farm, or mechanical supplies. The settlers are desperate to save their homes, Ty is hates the idea of living topside and doesn't want to lose his chance to homestead, and Gemma's search starts to reveal some terrible secrets the government wants hidden.

There was a lot of world building and explanations required to describe the life of an underwater homesteader, and Falls' wove this seamlessly into her story. The book had a nice pace, no clunky explanations, and some great characters. Ty is such a sweet character. He's the only boy his age and doesn't realize that Topsiders stare at him because he's apparently very handsome, he thinks it's just one more example of them not liking homesteaders. Gemma confuses him, a brash girl who's life has been a polar opposite of Ty's, she's the only girl his age and very pretty. Ty has the emotions that he can't even identify because they're so new, but he handles them, and the dangers they face because of the outlaws, with a level head, bravery, and a bit of grace. Underwater life, from how the homes are built, to how the livestock of fish are cared for are wonderfully explained in an easy to follow manner. What really stuck out was the fact that Ty would use underwater references to describe a smile, butterflies in his stomach, or the color of someone's eyes. At first a stomach full f comb jellyfish or seaweed green eyes doesn't sound very attractive, but they are representative of his life underwater and add a neat element to the story. I also really liked one of the younger boys, Hewitt. He hated living underwater and had this idealized version of life topside, he was a nice contrast to Gemma who had been equally ignorant of life underwater.

I really don't want to get too much more into the story because they're are some nice little surprises and I'd hate to ruin them. Suffice it to say that there's action, mysteries, daring does, villains, strange abilities, crooked politicians, secret prisons, and budding relationship - this book pretty much had it all.

This book was a lot like Little House on the Prairie under the sea, but it was fun. The descriptions were fantastic and Falls had created such a great world that I was sad that it was a stand alone book. Luckily I was wrong and Rip Tide is due out May 2, 2011. This seems to be the start of an imaginative new series and I highly recommend you pick it up. I give it 5 out of 6 stars, it's so different and I really enjoyed it.

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Jenny said...

Ohhhh I love the sound of this one, the underwater life element sounds fascinating. I love that Ty uses water life elements to describe everything, it would definitely help with the overall feel of being submerged. Fabulous review, I'm really interested in this one. And that cover is beautiful:)

December 13, 2010 at 10:40 AM
Jennifer (An Abundance of Books) said...

The world building really was creative and I was so happy to see that it was the start of a series.
The cover is in that "soft" finish (I don't know how else to describe it), but I kept stroking the book.

December 13, 2010 at 1:52 PM
Julie said...

I love your Tot's to Teens and In be'Tween logo! I've been interested in reading this book. Awesome review! I love the global warming angle and how they live under the sea. I can't wait to check it out!!! It's so cool when books are in the soft finish. I just jumped at your fish at the bottom. I thought it was a bug on my computer screen. I always forget you have that. LOL And thanks for the Google Preview :)

December 16, 2010 at 4:03 PM

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