Matthew’s father had lion’s feet and his mother had gills, and both fled the modern-day city to live in underground Safe, a secret community of freaks, ghost-whisperers, and disabled outcasts hidden beyond the subways and sewers. Raised underground, Matthew is responsible for the keeping of both Safe’s histories and the traumatized shapeshifter Ariel, the girl he took in, fell in love with – and can’t stop from constantly running away.
But Safe is no longer safe: the night after a frightening encounter in the sewers, Safe’s founder Atticus is murdered by the one person Safe ever exiled: mad Corner, whose coup is backed by an army of mindless, whispering shadows.
Only Matthew, Ariel, and a handful of unstable, crippled compatriots escape to the city that cast them out; the dangerous place he knows only as Above. Despite Ariel’s increasingly erratic behaviour and with the odds against them, Matthew must find a way to rescue Safe from Corner’s occupying army. But as his quest leads him through abandoned asylums and the dregs of urban poverty, Matthew discovers that the histories he’s devoted his life to aren’t true: Corner’s invasion – and Ariel’s terrors – are rooted in a history of Safe much darker and bloodier than Matthew ever imagined.
And even if he manages to save both home and Ariel, he may well lose himself.
Safe is a secret community underground where freaks and outcasts are safe from persecution by the Whitecoats, who want to do tests on them and keep them locked up. But Safe is no longer a haven when it is invaded by mad Corner and his crew of shadows. Safe’s leader is killed and the survivors escape to the world known only as Above, where they must attempt to pass as normal humans.
Matthew was born underground, and looks normal, but his mother had gills and his father had lion’s feet. He has been entrusted with the stories of all the people of Safe, along with responsibility for the traumatised but beautiful shapeshifter, Ariel. How he manages to discover the truth about his beloved Ariel and uncover the stories of Safe is a strange, unique, but highly engaging story.
Above is an unusual book suitable for readers 12 and up.
Angela Crocombe is the Children’s Book Buyer at Readings St Kilda, mother to a three year-old, and the author of two books on sustainable living, A Lighter Footprint: A Practical Guide to Minimising your Impact on the Planet and Ethical Eating.
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