ARC Review: Undertow-Michael Buckley


cooltext1889161239 copySixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other.

When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.

cooltext1889171582 copy4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group.


  • The variety of the Alpha people is incredibly intriguing. Each subspecies is described in wonderful detail and creates an elaborate underwater world. They have religion, politics, and a hierarchy of citizens. It’s intricate and sucks you right in. Their abilities are terrifying, sometimes grotesque but beneath the somewhat off-putting outer visage the culture is ingrained and the personalities are unique.
  • Lyric is a former feisty troublemaker turned timid girl of shadows after she learns of her mother’s secret. Lyric’s fierce personality shines through the guise of her indifference. Lyric has a powerful sense of right and wrong, she fights for the underdog, thinks with her potent, explosive emotions, and takes reckless to a new level when what she cares about is at stake. 
  • The slow fire of Lyric and Fathom’s budding relationship was intense. The build up is enough to drive a girl crazy but so worth it. It’s sweet and complicated and leaves you wanting more. 
  • Bex is sassy, pushy, and sometimes you can’t help but wonder how a girl like Lyric ended up with someone so confident and loud as a BFF. Bex brings happiness and fire to Lyric’s world of fear and helps her break out of her shell. Bex remembers the girl Lyric used to be and never lets her forget the “wild thing” buried beneath the surface.
  • Bex and Shadow are adorable together. Lovable, easy, they’re playful and get each other’s need for light and laughter in this time of darkness. 
  • Fathom is stoic, quick to anger, and reeks of pride but there’s something about him that sparks interest, an intensity and devotion that is crazy attractive. Duty and violence run in his veins but when he opens up, there’s an inkling of the compassionate man he could be and great ruler of the Alphas. 


  • Some sections were really slow and not much happened. Despite the epic world building and politics, the pace took away from the intensity of the danger. 
  • The outside world, what’s beyond the zone and the references to cultural icons were confusing. There wasn’t an explanation for why the Alpha came to the area specifically or if the world outside the zone had issues that would place it in the category of a dystopia. From what I gathered, right outside the zone, the world is like we know it today. I would have liked a clearer picture of outside influence and the role of the president. While forces like the UN and National Guard are employed, what the head of the government thinks of the situation and how it affects life out of the zone were a mystery.
  • The Niners and other hysterical protesters were cheesy at times with their ridiculous rhymes and while there is mention of horrific crimes against “fish lovers” the genuine fear and frenzy of the mob fizzled out after so many similar scenes. 

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