King’s (OCDaniel, 2017) latest sends readers tumbling belowground in a quest for survival.
Brown-skinned, biracial Eric and Latina classmate Silvia each bring their own metaphorical baggage into the limestone caverns below the New Mexico desert, beyond their daypacks filled with water bottles and snacks. When an earthquake sends them and their classmates tumbling into the unexplored abyss below the famous Carlsbad Caverns, they not only face a challenge to survive, but must also do battle with their inner demons. Meanwhile, King Carlos, of the mysterious underworld Midnight Realm, fears he is facing literal demons as the student intruders encroach upon his kingdom. After four generations underground, he and his people have thoroughly internalized his Hispanic great-grandfather’s warnings against the cruel race that lives above. Though oversized flora and fauna threaten at every turn, the true challenge for each of the three principal characters is to overcome their faulty beliefs about themselves and others. The narrative shifts focus among each as readers follow them through the subterranean landscape and on their own psychological journeys as well. For those both above- and belowground, healing from generations of exclusion and feelings of otherness is a consistent theme, which is, alas, quickly wrapped up and tied with a too-simple bow of forgiveness and inclusion. Careful readers will also wonder at both the paucity of Spanish surnames in this New Mexico school and the plot-driven choice of Carlos’ ancestors to speak English rather than Spanish when they took up residence below. Nevertheless, the quick-paced adventure and positive message of setting aside past hurts are sure to appeal.
A multifaceted journey from darkness to light. (Adventure. 8-12)