WATERBOUND by Jane Stemp


Age Range: 11 - 13
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 An earnest, plodding novel of the future, in which a teenager is shocked to discover a community of disabled outcasts living in tunnels below her city. With human society reduced to two closely regulated walled cities, permission is required to go Outside to visit the ``environment.'' When Gem, 16, discovers in the database an old map showing rivers and other points of access underground, her friend Jay admits knowing all about them and takes her down to meet the Waterbound, inhabitants who live in darkness and semidarkness. Blind Mike, deaf Sal, wheelchair-bound Sophie, and others, perhaps a hundred altogether, are dead, according to official records, but were secretly rescued by courageous hospital workers. It turns out that Gem and everyone she knows has a sibling below ground; her previously unsuspected sister, Alice, has gone ``Downstream beyond'' to an unknown fate. Stemp's disabled people display a realistic mix of dispositions, but they're all types--one blind, one legless, one with cerebral palsy--and unlike Gregory Maguire's I Feel Like The Morning Star (1989) or Lois Lowry's The Giver (1993), there are no authority figures to grapple with or moral dilemmas to conquer. The plot, replete with hanging threads, is also practically devoid of danger, suspense, humor, or surprise, nor does the climax, in which the Waterbound suddenly decide to reveal themselves by writing notes on folded paper flowers and floating them downstream, lead to any clear resolution. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8037-1994-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1996