Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Series Review: Dark Life

Dark Life (Dark Life, book one)
By Kat Falls, read by Keith Nobbs
Published 2010 by Scholastic Audio Books

Rip Tide (Dark Life, book two)
By Kat Falls, read by Keith Nobbs
Published 2011 by Scholastic Audio Books

Ty is just counting the days until he turns 18; then, he can finally stake a claim on his own homestead sub-sea. But when a girl from the Topside shows up, Ty soon finds himself caught up in a complicated plot involving the deadly Sea Blight gang.

As I've mentioned a few times now, I've gone back to the beginnings of my TBR whenever I need a new audiobook (though that's about to change soon, since the awesome SYNC program has started up again!). I've made the (somewhat arbitrary) rule that I'll only download the first book in a series if the rest of the series - or most of it anyway - is also available to download. And that's how I came up to this series.

I remember hearing about these books when they were first released. They are pretty perfect examples of middle-grade speculative fiction - they've got enough mature and complex themes and action to keep older readers engaged but they are tame enough for older elementary and young teen readers. I quite enjoyed the first one. Falls has created a really fascinating and, incredibly, believable world in these books. It actually feels like something that could happen, which I think is great, particularly if you want this book to start a discussion. Additionally, the people living under the water are essentially pioneers - a piece of history that young readers are usually quite taken with (see: the perennial popularity of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books). Ty is a great protagonist and I think kids will relate to him easily - he just wants to be normal and fit in and live the life he's been living. His desire to make a homestead of his own feels very true and it's easy to understand his frustration when that wish is in jeopardy. I really liked Gemma as well, though sometimes her actions were a bit frustrating. (I'm starting to think that the more frustrating I find a character, probably the more realistic they are - as I often find tweens and teens frustrating in real life as well.)

I greatly preferred the first book to the second - I think the plot is more interesting in book one than in book two, but that might just be a personal thing. The writing here is pretty basic - no lush descriptions or flowery tangents - but it works for this story. The action would only be bogged down by overly descriptive phrases and existential wonderings. It's certainly not bad, but I find it pretty unremarkable.

Book two finds Gemma and Ty on a new adventure which, as I mentioned, I found weaker than the first. I didn't think a second book was necessary - everything is tied up in the first book quite nicely (well, maybe there is one loose end, but I kind of liked it that way). I'm glad there are only the two books - I'm not sure I would have much enjoyed a third outing with them.

The audiobooks work well - I think Nobbs has a great voice for Ty and I liked the music that opens and closes the book. I don't have much to say about the format here. It worked well enough but was nothing extraordinary.

Ultimately, I'm glad I checked out this series and would happily recommend it to kids looking for an exciting read.

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