The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
**4.5-stars rounded up**
Debut novels have really been impressing me lately and this one is no exception. Man, what a captivating story. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like this.
Set at the end of the 21st-century, the world is now underwater. Our protagonist, 16-year old Leyla McQueen is living on her own in London.
Her Father has been arrested and spirited away by government officials, although no one will tell her exactly where.
Leyla knows he is innocent of the crimes for which he is accused and now her whole life is focused on trying to find him and get him back.
When the opportunity arises for her to compete in a government-sanctioned auto race, with the prize being anything the winner desires, she puts her whole heart into winning.
The marathon doesn’t turn out to be what she expected, however, and Leyla finds herself fleeing the perceived safety of London and heading out to lesser chartered waters for the first time in her life.
Now in her own submarine with her sweet pup, Jojo, virtual domestic help, Oscar, and a new body guard, Ari, she sets out to finally solve the mystery of what happened to her Father.
This book is so intriguing, you guys. Once I got into it, I could not put it down and pretty much read it in two days. There is a an enemies-to-lovers plot element which I enjoyed. It was very mild though so if romance isn’t your thing, I would just say that it never overpowered the rest of the storyline.
For me the elements I was picking up the most were the great bits of politically-charged social commentary. That may not be the greatest way to describe it. The story itself isn’t of a political nature but the topics explored definitely were and are poignant for a lot happening in the world right now.
Topics I noticed would include the idea that it is okay to question authority, to question the official story. It explored the idea of governments molding citizens viewpoints on ‘others’ and how individuals can be punished if they speak up or against such sanctioned ideas. There were elements of ‘terrorism’, domestic and otherwise, explored, as well as an us-versus-them mentality.
While all these topics were threaded throughout the narrative, to me, they never felt forced or like the author was championing an agenda. It was all very natural and organic to the plot progression. I was impressed with how the author was able to do that.
It’s also important to note this is Own Voices representation for a Muslim main character. Both of Leyla’s parents were of Afghan descent. So if you are looking for more stories with Muslim main characters, I think this would be a great one for you to check out!
I thought the scifi elements in here were excellent. Very forward thinking and unique as far as the whole world being underwater. I think the concepts are very approachable for all readers, so even if you don’t read a lot of scifi, maybe you are afraid you won’t necessarily understand it all, I don’t think that would be the case here.
Finally, there are very cool ‘monsters’ in this story! They were honestly one of my favorite parts. They are called anthropoids and are basically genetically-modified humans that can breathe underwater. So, think the evil mermaids from Harry Potter — very well done.
Thank you so, so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I was so impressed and cannot wait for the next book to be released!
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