Owen is not what you’d call the outdoorsy type. Growing up in the Hub — the caves where people live in the outer reaches of society — he never really had a chance to go outside, to get much exercise, to enjoy nature. Sure, much of this has to do with the radiation levels from the depleted ozone. But it’s also because that’s not exactly the person Owen is. So when he gets a chance to go to Camp Eden — a nature preserve inside a dome that protects the world from the radiation — he takes it. Even if it seems like something he wouldn’t do.
Once there, weird things start happening: he drowns, but doesn’t die. He grows gills, he discovers a secret society. And the people who are supposed to be protecting him and the other campers turn out to be something more … sinister.
The thing that this book really has going for it is that it’s a unique combination of dystopian and fantasy. The world Emerson builds is clearly dystopian: there’s talk of radiation leaks, and technology that has enabled people to be frozen and reawakened later. But it’s also fantasy: the evolution of gills, and the setup of a quest that involves Owen and some friends he makes at camp are clearly not in the realm of the possible. In addition, it’s got that summer-camp feel to it: there are typical power dynamics and interactions (including a romance) that could fit in any YA novel. It truly is a unique hybrid of styles.
Unfortunately, though, it’s all set up, and it does take a long time to get to where the action really begins. There are a lot of questions, and while many of them are answered by the end, it almost takes too long to get there.
Still, it’s an intriguing enough beginning to make me curious as to where the series will go.
Rated: Mild, for a few instances of mild swearing and some mild violence.