My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Above, by Canadian author Leah Bobet, is a truly well-crafted novel, written by an author clearly comfortable with voice, language and imagery. In this dark, modern fairy tale Bobet writes from a very difficult point of view, yet manages to sustain tension that leaves the reader flayed. Her pace and the emotional impact of that pace is relentless. Not an easy read, not a novel you’d wish to pick up for a quick escape into something creamy, dreamy and fluffy, yet Above is very much worthy of your time and attention.
Overall the story deals with the story of Matthew, the story-keeper of a Torontonian underground society, and his tragic love of one of his fellow mutants, Ariel. But to summarize Bobet’s tale by calling it a love story is to describe the Mona Lisa as a portrait. Just like the dystopian Toronto she creates, the story has layers upon layers. It is primarily a dark fantasy, yes. But it is also an indictment of barbaric psychiatric practices, of society’s inability to deal with the homeless, with the estranged, with the strange. It is a social commentary written with adroitness and insight, and all done with an accomplished story-teller’s art.
My only quibble, and it is a middling one, is the classification under which the publisher chose to list the book: young adult. While I can understand the reasoning behind that decision, I also cannot help but feel it was one chosen as an expedience, rather than a true understanding of Bobet’s work and its impact. The tale is so dark, and the writing so at the edge of avant guard, that the novel might gain wider and better recognition under an adult classification.
But, as I mentioned, I quibble.
Certainly Bobet’s novel is one worth your time. Recommended.