Undertow by Michael Buckley (ARC): Book Review

cover from Goodreads
Title: Undertow
Author: Michael Buckley
Publication Details: May 5th 2015 by HMH Children's Book Group
Copy: e-ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group through NetGalley

Sixteen-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.

The first chapter really intrigued me. I forgot what the book is about when I started reading so I don't really know what's going on, but I was immediately sucked into the story as I was trying to figure out what's happening.

Undertow is my first read about sea creatures so I thought it was a bit weird at first but I enjoyed it as I read along. I found myself wanting to know how things will turn out for Lyric, the protagonist, and the rest of the characters.

When the Alphas (the sea creatures) and their assimilation with humans were introduced, it kind of reminded me of the TV series Star-Crossed (minus the alien part). It was interesting though, how people reacted to such move by the government. I'm not sure how I would react, myself, but some people were so zealous and dead-set on opposing the assimilation that they would kill people. That was really scary.

Some major plot points are not at all unique but how the elements were taken together and how the plot progresses bring a refreshing take to the story.

There are still loose plot threads. But since Undertow is the first book in a series, I'm sure things will be explained in the succeeding books. The ending was quite a cliff-hanger. However, I liked that there's a lot to look forward to in the next book.

I think the characters, both the main and secondary, are interesting. I liked that there are many sides to them and they are three-dimensional. I think almost all of them gave mysterious vibes at the beginning but as I read along, I got to know at least some of their layers. It was fun to read about them and find out their qualities and their reactions given the circumstances they're in.

As for Lyric, one of the main characters, I liked that she is brave and sassy. I enjoyed reading about her. However, I think her character development was too sudden. It was a bit slow towards the middle but then it changed suddenly at the end that I find it quite unbelievable.

Lyric's relationship with Fathom is cliché. I don't think there's something unique about that part but I still enjoyed reading their encounters. I'm not too sure about how I feel about Fathom. He's an okay character but I need to know him better.

I also liked some of the secondary characters. One is Bex, Lyric's best friend. Her character is a strong one. Like Lyric, her character development was a bit too sudden for me. But nevertheless, I would still want to read more of her. Another are Lenny and Summer, Lyric's parents. I liked their relationship as a family. There are still the usual family dramas but I could see love and respect between them. They get along well, and perhaps in an alternative universe, where everything is normal, they are a very happy family.

Undertow is narrated in a first person's voice and in Lyric's POV. While Lyric's thoughts are okay and not at all annoying, I still wish for another character's perspective, perhaps Fathom? I think I would have enjoyed it more knowing the Alpha's side as well.

As I've mentioned there's still loose plot threads but otherwise I was able to grasp and understand the story and the characters' situation. I can't say it has a unique concept though, as some parts are predictable. The pacing can be a bit slow but there's a sudden change towards the end.


More than the adventure and experience the book offers, Undertow is also a story about identity and relationship. It is a story of being brave for the ones you love and standing up

Overall, I did enjoy reading Undertow. It was fun to read but I was not totally amazed by it. Would I read the next book? Yes, I still would. I think more interesting things will happen in the next ones and I'm looking forward to reading them.

New York Times bestselling author Michael Buckley was born in Akron, Ohio. He tried his hand as a stand-up comic and lead singer for a punk rock back before attending Ohio University. After graduating with honors he moved to New York City to be an intern on the Late Show with David Letterman which led to stints developing programming for Discovery Networks, MTV, MTV Animation and Klasky Csupo (producers of Nickelodeon’s Rugrats). Today he lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, Alison, and their son Finn.


  1. I was looking at it today and thinking if I should request it on NetGalley for review...But I am so short with time and my TBR is just huge! Ya think it would be worth it? I mean 3.5 stars are not really much...

    1. Uhm, I honestly don't think so. It was an enjoyable read. The style of writing is okay. But it's not really a must-read. (Well, at least for me.) :)

  2. I really liked this one! I was expecting to rate it 3 stars, but I actually gave it 4.5! Lol! I really liked the world-building and the characters!

    1. I did enjoy it. What put me off, I think, was the pacing and it was a bit cliche.


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