Confined to an underground set of rooms with his immediate family and grandmother, the boy still manages to establish routines, play games, and cultivate a fascination with the natural world that he’s never seen. However, when his sister gives birth, he begins to fear that his loving family—the only people he’s ever known—are misleading him about fundamental things: Who is the father of this baby, who is it that they hear walking above them in the night, and what is it that really keeps them in their subterranean prison away from sunlight and fresh air?
Pen doesn’t shy away from the harrowing things his characters are capable of, nor does he diminish their humanity by making them one-dimensional monsters. I was shocked at the disturbing revelations about what led the family underground, and charmed by the way they manage to bring magic and joy to their day-to-day existence. Despite the bleakness of their surroundings, love, light, and the power of compassion make their way through and help the boy find illumination. Pen has a genius for taking the familiar and making it hair-raising. It’s a simultaneously terrifying and hopeful world he’s created, and I welcome you to explore both the darkness and the light.
- Elizabeth DeNoma, Editor