The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie. ★★★★
This YA book contains genetically engineered sea monsters, morally grey situations, and a same sex love interest. In other words, it is awesome.
Cassandra Leung’s entire family is involved in the industry that creates and trains gigantic sea monsters, Reckoners, to escort ships and provide protection from pirates. Cas is a trainer who has just been given her first solo mission when everything goes terribly wrong. Her Reckoner is killed, and Cas herself is captured by pirates led by pirate queen Santa Elena. And Santa Elena has a plan. Somehow, she’s gotten a hold of a Reckoner pup, and she’s going to use it and Cas to change the balance of power on the high seas.
The Abyss Surrounds Us is set sometime in the future, when rising sea levels have drowned cities and coastal lands, leading to huge numbers of stateless people who live on ships and floating cities. Almost their only means of survival is piracy. But does that justify the theft and murder? And are the corporations who have sea monsters created to protect their ships justified in utterly annihilating the pirate ships? It’s a complex issue and the book doesn’t present any easy answers.
The writing wasn’t gorgeous or anything, but it wasn’t overly simplistic either, a problem I’ve had with some other YA new releases. There were no plot holes that I noticed, character motivations made sense… Basically, everything worked like it should, and there were no problems that jolted me out of my enjoyment of the story.
If you can’t tell from what I’ve said about the book so far, it’s very diverse. Cas is Chinese and a lesbian, with a love interest who’s another teenage girl. The supporting cast is similarly diverse, which makes utter sense given that the book’s set primarily in the Pacific Ocean.
I also liked how the romantic relationship played out. I actually cared about it, which is pretty unusual for me. Cas’s and Swift’s relationship wasn’t insta love and grew naturally through the book. I was a bit worried about the possible power dynamics of Cas being a prisoner on the ship and Swift being one of Elena’s lackies, but it was actually handled fairly well.
My biggest quibble would be that The Abyss Surrounds Us was so short. What with that and the fast pace, I blew through it in under a day. Luckily, there is a planned sequel so I’ll get more of Cas and the sea monsters eventually.
The Abyss Surrounds Us is one of the best new YA novels that I’ve read. I can’t wait until it comes out in February 2016 so I can start shoving it on all my friends.
This a free and honest review written in exchange for a ARC copy obtained through Netgalley.