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Above World Paperback – February 12, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8-In Jenn Reese's science fiction novel (Candlewick, 2012), humans have created different colonies of altered humans to escape the threat of an epidemic. There are mermaids living underwater, equines inhabiting the desert, and aviators living in the sky as a result of genetic engineering. However, the technology that allowed humans to adapt is failing, and Aluna, a brave mermaid, and her friends set out to confront the mad scientist who created it. Although the premise is interesting, the story unwinds tediously, with a lot of effort spent explaining details that don't advance the plot or reveal much about the characters. For example, almost an entire chapter is devoted to Dash teaching Aluna how to build a fire, going into great detail about gathering kindling and using flint to start a spark. Girls will appreciate the hints of romance and the strong female characters, while male listeners will be disappointed in the scarcity of action and violence. Kate Rudd's narration fluctuates effortlessly between the serious tone of the situation and the chirpy attitude of the juvenile characters. Not a first purchase.-Cynthia Grabke, McCormack Middle School, Dorchester, MAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


A warrior heroine with a caring heart, stalwart friends, an edgy futurist subtext and the suggestion of a possible sequel make this a thrilling sci-fi adventure. Imaginative and riveting.
—Kirkus Reviews

Action-seeking readers should enjoy the many revelations, twists, and hand-to-claw battle sequences, and fierce, take-charge Aluna is the kind of heroine who is easy to get behind. An open-ended conclusion leaves the door to Reese's futuristic world wide open for future adventures.
—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 710L (What's this?)
  • Series: Above World (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763662593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763662592
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #519,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Writer. Martial artist. Geek.

Jenn writes science fiction and fantasy stories about heroes and adventure and lasting friendships. Her short stories have appeared online in Strange Horizons and in a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning Paper Cities. She makes her home in Los Angeles, a sun-bleached desert city of freaks that she absolutely loves. When she's not sitting in traffic, she's studying martial arts, playing video games, and dreaming of rain.

For more information on her stories, novels, and adventures, visit www.jennreese.com.

Novels in the Above World series for ages 10+:
ABOVE WORLD (Candlewick 2012) - 2012 Nominee for SFWA's Andre Norton Award
MIRAGE (Candlewick 2013)
TBD (Candlewick 2014)

Novels for older teens and adults:
JADE TIGER (Juno 2007)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Samphire on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
ABOVE WORLD is so original, so fantastic, and most of all, just so much FUN. It's science fiction adventure told with all the mythic feel of epic fantasy, so readers get mermaids, centaurs, and flying people, but with a scientific explanation underneath - and such a powerful sense of wonder filling every single scene.

As Aluna and her best friend Hoku leave the safety of their underwater home to travel across a dazzling, mythic landscape, facing danger from every side, they take part in incredible action scenes, but also heart-breaking emotions and so many moments that made me suck in my breath in sheer awe. Jenn Reese is so, so good at conjuring up incredible visuals in her writing - this book gives readers the kind of breath-taking vistas and heart-pounding action of the best fantasy films imaginable, but with rock-solid plotting and incredible characterization to anchor it all.

I could go on for ages about everything I love about this book, from Aluna's strength and warrior mindset to Hoku's wonderful geekiness and how well the two of them complement each other as friends (and how much I love the celebration of true friendship in this novel, as opposed to romance - but also how much I love the romances that develop for both Aluna and Hoku along the way!) - but to sum it up, here's the review I wrote on Goodreads over a year ago, having been lucky enough to read early drafts of the novel pre-publication:

"Super-fun science-fiction adventure for kids, with genetically-engineered mermaids and girls with wings AND incredible fighting skills. Deep, important friendships and sweet first romance. This book has everything, and I love it so much."
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Raein2001 on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a middle grade adventure this much. I've been trying to put my finger on why it sings to my inner 13-year-old so much, and I've decided that part of is the bright sense of wonder permeating its pages. Everything from the undersea world, to the centaurs, to the gorgeously described setting is so big and bright and exciting. It's very much a Jules Verne-esque novel for the modern child, with scientific explanations for fantastic creatures. I also loved the characters. Aluna is so fierce and Hoku is so geeky, and I loved watching them work together. This is a book that, for all its fantastical elements, never forgets that friendship is the greatest wonder of all.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Silent Pages on March 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The plot summary of Above World intrigued me. And the plot itself is intriguing. Far into the future, after overpopulation crowds humans out of their usual dwelling places, they transform themselves into beings based on mythical creatures (mermaids, harpies, centaurs, and so on) capable of living in other ecosystems - the ocean, high altitudes, the deserts, etc.

First of all, I love the concept. The world-building was rather good, with noticeable distinctions in culture between the Kampii (mermaids), Aviar (harpies), and all the rest. There was no shortage of action. The fight scenes were rather exciting, and detailed (the author studies martial arts, so.... There you go).

There's an interesting blend of fantasy and science fiction here...

...which is what made it so disappointing when I could not bring myself to fully love this book.

I never really was engrossed in it, perhaps because that action-packed, exciting pace is so fast. Things move so quickly that certain areas weren't developed as much as I would have liked.

Right from the beginning, things got a little Tell-y. The information was usually interesting. The placement just didn't feel natural. Characters talked too long about things that should've been common knowledge to them. While reading, I thought more than once, "This book is mainly about showcasing the world and/or technology."

Character motivations were sketchy in places. They flip-flopped - made rather dumb decisions on one page, then berated themselves for it (literally) two pages later. While some of the characters were interesting at first, I couldn't truly like them because of their nonsensical actions, or actions that were out of character.

Out of character.
Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those special middle-grade books that kid readers will love (I know, because my own kid readers loved it), and that adults can enjoy, as well. It works for both audiences!

Aluna is soon to receive the technology that will give her a tail, like the rest of her mermaid-like kin. Her best friend, Hoku, is a tinkerer who lives on the bad side of the reef. Aluna discovers that the tech that supports life in the undersea city is failing, and of all her people, she is the only one brave enough to discover what's happening. With Hoku, she goes to the above world, where she meets other modified humans different from her own people, and a villain she must sacrifice much to defeat.

Everything about this book is a wonder. The characters are so compelling, especially brave, stubborn Aluna. I also loved Hoku--he's more of a follower, but he has his own talents. And Dash, of the horse people, who might be a love interest for Aluna as the series continues. The world building in this book is amazing, all the cultures and peoples described so clearly that I was immersed in the story from the very beginning. Another thing about this book that I loved was that it's a girl power book. Aluna is tough and strong and a great fighter, and impetuous enough to get herself into lots of trouble.

To sum up: this is a terrific book! Get it for the kid reader in your life, or for yourself--it's a great read.
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