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Below Hardcover – 14 May 2013
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A poetic sensibility shines through this coming-of-age mystery from McKinlay.
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
--Kirkus Reviews [R]eaders will hold their breath as [Cassie] challenges herself, swimming far into the forbidden side of the lake as the story unfolds. Her voice is convincing as she and Liam glimpse more of the drowned town. ... Readers will enjoy spending time with Cassie and Liam and will appreciate the satisfying resolution.
--School Library Journal The mystery is within plausible bounds, and it leads to a secret that's tragic but ultimately freeing. This makes the beautifully eerie seem everyday, an impressive feat that makes for an easy booktalk and an inviting read.
--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books McKinlay's prose is the perfect balance between the terse, sarcastic tone of a 12-year-old and the lyrical language that keeps a reader turning the pages. .... This is a story about many things; overcoming adversity, finding friendship in unlikely places, and how history has a way of retelling itself without all its parts.
--Library Media Connection Below weaves the lives and stories of all these residents together, creating a narrative that is compelling, suspenseful and unique. Combining aspects of a mystery and a coming-of-age story, Below offers readers an opportunity to look beneath the surface and discover what lies below.
--Booklist Online [A] memorable and suspenseful novel for 9- to 14-year-olds.
--The Wall Street Journal [A]n intriguing, mysterious and suspenseful book. ... The characters are true-to-life and the story realistic and genuine.
About the Author
Meg McKinlay is a poet as well as a children's writer. She lives in Australia and divides her time between writing and teaching at the University of Western Australia.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Cassie, the main character, was born early - that much was made clear. Perhaps, she shouldn't have been born at all or so some people believe. It would be hard to tear your family away from the triumphant moment when the town sunk beneath the water especially when it seems to haunt you since you were born. Despite all of the things that seem to be against her, she is amazingly smart and she has a vast knowledge about the town that she never saw - a town she never got the chance to know. Her lungs, under developed from her early birth, only seems to encourage her desire to see the town even if it is just from the surface of the lake as she swims across. Her intuitive nature and her desire for answers are what drives the whole story and it definitely brings about answers that will shock people.
I was actually surprised with Liam, simply because he became a character that was so different from what I had conceived he would be. His life is what I would think would be the definition of hard, at least for me. He was born along with his twin brother in the original town, awhile prior to the idea of drowning the town was discussed. However he became deformed when his family got in an accident which killed his twin brother and forever changed his father from the man he once had been. Liam partly blames himself and because of that Cassie was able to form a connection with him. I think he has a crush on her though and in many ways I think they are perfect for each other. He is a great kid that loves his family and looks out for his dad. Not what I expected but something I definitely loved.
Her parents are polar opposites from each other and yet they both attempt to show Cassie love in their own unique way which sometimes only seems to hinder their relationship with them. It's clear they didn't want another kid and didn't need one, so how can they have some deep bond that most claim to have with their kids? Her mom is a history teacher, who had taken off time to raise a family and once the two older kids had gotten older, returned to work. She practically raised Cassie in the class room. She is overly protective of her and certainly treats her other kids different. Cassie sees that it is unfair. Her dad is the artist of the family and a free spirit. He doesn't see the world like everyone else and he takes a more gentle approach with how to love his youngest child. He allows Cassie to watch him create and shares secrets with her that he would not share with anyone else.
Her siblings always seem to be miles away from her as though they realize they have a younger sibling and yet sometimes refuse to acknowledge the bond that definitely could've formed between them. Her sister is perhaps the toughest one of all to understand. She works for the mayor, a character that has a great deal of charisma and has an addiction to his power, and doesn't question everything - not like Cassie. She is always trying to make the city government look better and I can't decide if that is admirable or annoying. She is the sibling that constantly rains on Cassie's parade and point out that when important things had happened, Cassie wasn't alive. Her brother tries to be supportive of his sister and not make things so awkward for her. He realizes that she is struggling with the age gap so he just doesn't push like her sister does. He manages to bring humor to some of the hardest moments. He helps Cassie find her place in the world, even if it is not with their family.
I really liked this book. So check it out!
Cassie has always been fascinated by the lake, and, ordered by the doctor to swim regularly to strengthen her lungs, she finds herself there, instead of the pool, doing her laps. At first, it's just to avoid the crowded pool. But soon, it's discoveries. The off-limits side of the lake. A friend she didn't know she had. And -- on the edge of the town's highly anticipated centennial celebration -- a mystery that could unravel everything, especially for a few pillars of the community.
BELOW is a beautiful novel. The writing, the characters, the town of Lower Grange -- all gorgeous and filled out perfectly, like summer should be. And, also like summer, it's fleeting. A page-turner that keeps you up at night, waiting to find the next clue. And while this doesn't read like a whodunnit, it is a mystery, with themes of growing up, family, and friendship. Meg McKinlay's latest is a work of art, and I hope many summer readers are finding it as refreshing as I did.
Cassie is intrigued by the lake because every day for as long as she can remember, she has had to swim laps in the town pool to help her build her stamina. But that can get boring, so she crosses the no trespassing boundaries and begins swimming in the forbidden lake. A boy her age, Liam, with his own difficulties and life struggles notices that she hasn't been at the pool and follows her to the lake. As the summer becomes hotter and the water levels lower, the "fire tree" emerges in the middle of the lake.
Cassie and Liam swim, rebuild an old raft and form a friendship of trust and confidence with each other. By diving deeper into the water, they find suspicious rudiments near the "fire tree." Imaginations can run a bit wild in 12 year olds, but in the end, all their findings and secrets unfold.
BELOW is an intriguing, mysterious and suspenseful book. As events unfold, it's difficult to put the book down. It is fast-paced and full of surprises and secrets. The characters are true-to-life and the story realistic and genuine. I truly enjoyed this book very much.
Reviewed by Cyndie Stetson