Saturday, September 8, 2012

Educate Emma: Books: Going Underground by Susan Vaught

Dust Jacket Description:

"Meet Del.
He’s a good guy.
He has a great parrot.
He has a decent (okay, weird) job, a lot of dreams–and absolutely no future at all. At seventeen, he’s a felon without many options, and he’s almost okay with it. Almost. Until he meets Livia and wants much, much more of what life has to offer. Del must face his past and his fears to move forward, even though a sea of complications threatens to bring the world crashing down around him again."

Characters: If I have any excuse to hate a protagonist, I usually will. So I don't often get along with main characters who angst about how horrible they are, even when they haven't done anything wrong. Their false insecurities grate on my nerves and make me want to throw the book across the room. However, Del made me like and relate to him. He felt real, and his concerns about who he was as a person were valid. I wanted him to come out of his adolescence with hope and a future. With a story like Going Underground, it was very important for readers to pull for Del, and Vaught manages it well. It didn't hurt that he also had Beth Hart in one of his music playlists, whose album Screaming for My Supper is one of those pieces of music that defined my childhood. She's so unknown that it made me squee when I saw her name in the novel.

My only real complaint about characterization came in the form of Livia. She felt like a manic pixie dream girl within the story, and I wished that she could have become more fully formed over the course of the novel. If she gotten a bit more page time, I think she could been a memorable personality. 4 flowers. 

Writing: Del's voice was natural, and the way Vaught explained social expectations really demonstrated the sad bitterness that Del had after his conviction. 4 and a half flowers. 

Plot: I'm so surprised that I haven't seen more YA books cover this teenage problem. I applaud Vaught for seizing hold of an important subject. As for the pacing, I've seen it in contemporary novels quite frequently - slow, self involving pace and then BAM, the climax jolts the reader into remembering all the story's risks. When I have no emotional investment in the book, this pacing reminds me of bad indie movies. But again, Going Underground pulled it off, although I'm a little confused about why the trigger moment occurred in the first place.  4 flowers. 

End: I really love the hopeful-yet-real tone of the ending. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the underdog. 5 flowers. 

Dust Jacket Description: They don't go into any detail about Del's job digging graves, which doesn't make much sense in conjunction with the cover. I preferred the description on the back of my advanced reader's copy. 3 flowers.

Cover: It captures the tone of the book and possesses enough story details for me to be happy with it. The feet still bug me, though. 4 flowers. 

Overall:  A formulaic, but quality contemporary YA novel that covers a very relevant topic. It's definitely worth a read. 4 flowers.


  1. What was his crime?? Or is that a spoiler?

    Regardless, great review. We haven't heard about this book until now, but it sounds really interesting. (Minus the MPDG...)

    1. It's not that much of a spoiler - it's easy to guess - but I didn't want to give too much away, regardless.

      And thank you! I was pleasantly surprised by how well crafted it was.