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DOWNSIDERS by Neil Shusterman

DOWNSIDERS

By Neil Shusterman

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-689-80375-3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Shusterman (The Dark Side of Nowhere, 1997, etc.) twines suspense and satire through this ingenious tale of a secret community living deep beneath the streets of New York City. The boundaries of Lindsay's lonely, friendless world expand suddenly when she meets Talon Angler, an oddly clad teenager who claims to have come from "Downside" in search of medicine for his sick little sister. Against his better judgement, Talon takes Lindsay on a forbidden tour of his own world, a subterranean maze of tunnels and chambers where he and 5,000 others live in peace and comfort, knowing "Topside" only from old tales and occasional peeks through street drains. Spinning Downside's origin from actual events in New York history, Shusterman creates a plausibly complex society with its own art, customs, and assumptions, then turns to view Topside culture, both through Downsider eyes and with a more general, broadly comic, vision. Despite frequent doses of social commentary, the pace never flags; their isolation breached by a Topsider aqueduct project, the Downsiders respond by cutting off all utilities (oblivious, New Yorkers respond with a huge block party), then, under Talon's leadership, filling upper levels with natural gas and setting it off. Urban readers, at least, will be checking the storm drains for peering faces in the wake of this cleverly envisioned romp. (Fiction. 11-15)