The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah
Released: October 29, 2019
The Light at the Bottom of the World was one of my Most Anticipated Reads list for October. I was really excited for this debut, but it unfortunately fell a little flat to me. I think it had so much potential, but didn't quite reach where I wanted it to go.
Before I get too into it, here's a short summary of the novel:
In the not-too-distant-future, humans live within the depths of the ocean. But, things aren't as grand under the sea as the government wants its people to believe. In London, 16-year-old Leyla McQueen tries to find her father who was taken by the government under false charges. Entering the racing competition of the year, Leyla knows that if she wins, she may just have a chance of getting her father back. But, when Leyla is instead forced to leave her safe city of London, everything she thought she knew goes up in bubbles around her.
The premise is really interesting and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. I mean, living under the sea is what
dreams are made of, right? However, it felt more like a draft to me rather than a finished product. The dialogue really turned me off--the main character asks far too many questions, which seem only to be so we the readers can get a lot of information quickly. Most of the things said didn't really come across as natural. The voices, however, were well written and I had a very good sense of who the characters were and enjoyed them.
The scenes also jumped around a lot, and I often caught myself wondering how we got to certain parts when the page or paragraph before didn't lead me into it. It was kind of jarring while reading and often took me away from what was going on in the story.
Negatives aside, I really enjoyed the characters, and they were really what made me finish reading. Leyla is easy to relate to, even if she does live underwater and race submarines. Her thoughts and fears are very real and her voice is strong and witty, which I loved. Ari, her protector meets enemy meets eventual friend and love interest was slightly dull until further into the book, well, the ending really. His was a twist I didn't see coming and I enjoyed it. I felt connected to them and invested in their journey--both personal and plot wise. I liked the representation of the Muslim religion and foods from the country of the main character's origins. I think it gave it a solid foundation and grounded the story for readers.
The book is meant for something far larger than its fun, fantastical setting. It often pushed this point, especially in the ending. This can be a turn off since it feels like it's being pushed at you, but overall I think it's a strong connection readers can make between this fantasy world and our real lives.
Overall, I would read the second book if only to know how it all ends. But, I'm not completely as invested in this book as I had hoped to be.