UNDERWORLD by Catherine MacPhail


Age Range: 12 - 14
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Simultaneously predictable and far-fetched, this amalgam of adventure, psychological study and horror fails to be either a suspenseful story or a thoughtful examination of young people struggling to overcome difficult challenges. Characters are broadly drawn, as evident from the line-up listed on the back cover: “The bully. The liar. The punk. The prankster. The show-off.” MacPhail’s efforts to humanize her characters are heavy-handed at best. Axel (the bully) turns out to have been abused, while talented, intelligent Zesh (the show-off) suffers from asthma. Plot elements are equally unconvincing. The rationale for these particular students being chosen for a school trip to a remote Scottish island seems contrived, while the reason for the initial cave-in, which traps the five students and their teacher, is never disclosed. The insertion of a second story, told by a German soldier who narrowly survived being trapped in the caves during WWII, seems awkward and artificial. Unlikable characters, unlikely events and an unbelievable monster add up to a story that is unlikely to find an appreciative audience. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: July 1st, 2005
ISBN: 1-58234-997-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2005


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