Below

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2014

By Meg McKinlay, Reviewed by Sundari Arunarasu

Below book cover

Below, by Meg McKinlay, Candlewick Press:
Massachusetts, 2013; $15.99

Anyone would think that if you drowned a town with five thousand swimming pools of water, it would be done and gone, forgotten forever! But twelve-year old Cassie knows that everything has a way of revealing itself, sooner or later. Since she was a little girl, Cassie was always interested in the town that the mayor, Mr. Finkle, had drowned by flipping a lever. Cassie would draw pictures and look for newspaper articles about the drowned town because that was the day she was born. She was born early, so she had to swim laps every day to keep her lungs healthy. One day, curiosity gets the better of her and she decides to swim in the lake with the drowned town instead of the usual swimming pool.

I can relate to Cassie well because I have always been a curious person and have wanted to know more about things. I also am a swimmer and love the water. Cassie has always wanted to know more, and when she finds out her classmate Liam has the same interest as her, everything starts piecing together. Liam’s dad was in an accident the day Liam and his twin brother were born. His brother died at a very young age.

Cassie and Liam start exploring the lake, going underwater and catching glimpses of the old town. Their search doesn’t give them any results for a while. One day, however, they see something sticking out of the water. It is the fire tree, what they used back in the old town for spotting fires. Little by little, more of the water is gone, and the first platform on the tree is above the water. There is one problem, though! The mayor, Mr. Finkle, doesn’t want any memories from the old town, and seeing the fire tree would just remind everyone about their old lives. He plans to fill the lake with water again. Mr. Finkle seems like a person who would always want things to go his way. He always seems kind of suspicious and careful around everyone when Cassie and Liam find the fire tree. A few days later, they find a shed under the water while exploring the town. They break into the shed and see a brand new red car. Cassie and Liam find that very peculiar because no one would want to trash a car on purpose, especially a new one. When they solve the mystery of the red car, it is destined to change everyone’s life forever.

My favorite part of the book is when Cassie makes it to the fire tree the very first time. She has never swum such a long distance before, and when she finally makes it, Cassie has accomplished something special. I think the author, Meg McKinlay, makes everything so realistic you feel like you are part of the story. I found myself hoping, aspiring, anticipating, and envisaging that Cassie would figure out the mystery. It is also sad and melancholic to think that a whole town has been drowned and no one will ever see it again. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a mystery full of surprises to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Below Sundari Arunarasu

Sundari Arunarasu, 11
Portland, Oregon

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