cover image Above


Isla Morley. S&S/Gallery, $24.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4767-3152-0

Morley (Come Sunday) scores with an audacious page-turner. Blythe Hollowell is only 16 when she’s kidnapped and taken to live in an abandoned missile silo by Dobbs, a local conspiracy theorist, who has chosen her to help him repopulate the world after end times. If the premise and some of the concepts initially owe too great a debt to Emma Donoghue’s Room, the specifics of life underground and Blythe’s coping mechanisms—in particular, her touching habit of using memories to teach herself, as she gets older in captivity, how to be an adult—quickly set it apart. At first Blythe dreams of escape and resists Dobbs, but as the years pass, she weakens, and when she bears a son, Adam, and Dobbs becomes increasingly unpredictable, she resigns herself to life in captivity. Time passes without losing momentum, and soon Adam turns 15, questioning Dobbs’s authority and demanding to go into the world they call Above. In a series of gripping twists, Morley elevates the complexities of Blythe and Adam’s situation, deepening the themes of survival and dependence. The tension diffuses toward the end, but the majority of the book is a stellar and surprising ride. (Mar.)