Undertow by Michael Buckley is not your average mermaid story. In fact, it’s pretty far from it.
Lyric Walker has learned to keep her head down. After 30,000 Alpha showed up on the beach in Coney Island, she’s made herself as unassuming as possible. After all, there’s no telling who’s more dangerous — the race of sea creatures who left the depths of the ocean, or the humans who demand they go back to where they came from.
But keeping her head down will no longer be an easy task. There has been a mandate stating that the Alpha incorporate themselves into society, and the first step is to assimilate several teenage Alpha into Lyric’s school. That’s where she meets Fathom, the crown prince, and starts having feelings for someone vastly different from herself.
Unfortunately, the current situation is nothing compared to what the future holds. The Alpha left the ocean for a reason, and it turns out they may not be the bad guys everyone thinks they are. Can Lyric bridge the gap between humans and Alpha, and can the two races work together to defeat a common enemy?
‘Undertow’ book review
Undertow by Michael Buckley is a story of mermaids as you’ve never seen them. To be fair, the Alpha are decidedly not mermaids, and they would probably challenge you to the death if you suggested they were. While they do live in the ocean, this race of sea-dwelling people are intelligent, violent and dangerous.
This story, above anything else, is about racism and segregation. The Alpha look and act differently, and humans, as we have seen in the past, don’t take too kindly to that sort of thing. The parallels between Undertow and stories of the Civil Rights movement are astounding, and make this book even more profound.
Lyric Walker is the kind of female protagonist dreams are made of. She’s smart; she’s tough; she’s resourceful. Yet, she also loves deeply, and would do anything to keep her friends and family safe — even if that means putting herself in danger.
One of the greatest highlights of this novel — and believe us, there are many — is the layered story that explores prejudice, domestic abuse, foreign culture, law enforcement’s role in society, and so much more. The secondary characters are as real and well-written as the primary characters, and the very real idea of racism and political turmoil has very real consequences.
Michael Buckley’s writing style is full of emotion and suspense. The dark pretense of the story is perfectly counterbalanced by the lighter moments, though you are constantly reminded of what is at stake and what Lyric must go through in order to keep herself and those around her safe.