Review: Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell

Pub. Date: July 23rd, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
320 pg.

Before I start my review let me just say that I acknowledge I am probably not the target reading audience for this book. Even still, I was completely drawn in, especially for the first few chapters, and I really couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen. The problem I guess is that I am the type of reader who always works at figuring out the mystery. With Undercurrent I figured it out in less than 100 pages. I don’t know about you, but once I put the pieces together, I have a hard time staying engaged, waiting for the characters to catch up.

Slowing waking in a hospital bed, at first being unable to move, speak, or blink, Callum Harris knows that something is wrong. People keep telling him that he should be dead, and not in a, you’re so lucky way, but an, if karma existed you would be dead, kind of way. Once he’s ‘home’ the wrongness of his life becomes more apparent. His once divorced parents are happily together, his books have been replaced by football trophies on his shelves, a box with a gun and hundreds of dollars is found in his room, people are afraid of him, and most significantly his older brother was apparently in an accident leaving him paralyzed years before.

The novel is built around the mystery of what happened to Callum. How he found himself falling over the railing atop Crystal Falls, why his memory of events and of his life differ so significantly from the memories of his ‘friends’ and family, and who keeps trying to kill him. As I’ve said, the problem for me was that I quickly figured the mystery out. When I knew what had happened to Cal, and especially who was out to get him, it was hard to buy into the ‘suspense’.

Aside from an easily solved mystery, I have a few larger complaints. The first is that people don’t behave in the ways they probably should. When Callum first goes over the falls, his parents are under the assumption he attempted suicide – yet do not try to help him through whatever it was that would lead him to suicide. Most significantly, Callum doesn’t crack or freak out when nothing is as he remembers it. His reaction doesn’t seem realistic to me at all. If any of us woke up in a world completely different from the one we remembered, we would probably go crazy either trying to figure out what happened, or trying to convince others of the reality we knew. Callum doesn’t convincingly do either of these things. The second complaint I have is the quickness of the ending! It just ends. We are built up to a conclusion, and then we don’t get to experience the pay off. Super frustrating.  

Other readers may not share my issues with this novel and even though it didn’t work for me I would consider it an entertaining read - especially for people unlike myself who can just read and not constantly try to figure out the mystery. But, for readers like myself who can’t ever just sit back and not ask questions, but instead try to figure out the answers, I don’t know if this book will satisfy you.

Rating 3/10

**I received a copy of this novel from the publisher to read and honestly review. I was in no way compensated.

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