Review Blog

Jan 13 2012

Going Underground by Susan Vaught

cover image

Bloomsbury, 2011.
(Ages: 15+) Highly recommended. This novel opens with the main character, 17 year old Del, digging a grave and pondering his life in the 'deadzone' a place 'without life, without feeling, without air'. He has no prospects, despite still being at school and a good student, is not permitted to apply to college and the only job he can get is working for an alcoholic cemetery caretaker.
What could this boy, who was bright, funny and friendly, a child that any parent would be proud to call their own, have done that was so dreadful as to ruin his whole life? His story is told in a series of flashbacks to the time three years ago, when his world was turned upside down. The account is cleverly accompanied by Del's own musical soundtrack, that reflects his thoughts and feelings. When the circumstances are slowly and painfully revealed it comes as a surprise and a shock, but not for the reasons you think.
Del falls for the beautiful Livia, seeing her when she visits her sister's grave. She is sweet and lovely with her own tragic background, and he faces the dilemma of having to tell her his secret without losing her. The matter is further complicated by the Goth girl Cherie who has taken a shine to Del, despite knowing his past, and cannot take the increasingly strident hints that he is not interested.
The characters are appealing, quirky and well rounded, even Fred the foul mouthed and cheeky African gray parrot who is Del's  constant companion. It is especially pleasant to see that the majority of adults are thoughtful, compassionate and kind, not the cliched villains or clueless stereotypes that feature in so much YA fiction. There are of course exceptions to the rule in the cynical and hypocritical DA who appallingly uses the situation to further his own career.
This is an engaging and rather lovely novel, that deals with the topical themes of teenage sexuality and sexting as well as friendship, love and loss with sympathy and understanding.
Alicia Papp

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