Review of ‘Undergrowth’ by Chelsea Lim & Chel Hylott
I read this book last night but felt like I needed the extra time to process the book before I wrote a review. This is a bit of an oddball book. It’s a YA, apocalyptic book with a paranormal twist. There is so much cli-fi nowadays, climate-based fiction, that you don’t see paranormal influencing apocalypses as much. I actually liked this mix and I enjoyed that parts of the story felt fresh. There was a lot of potential here but I don’t think everything came together.
Miriam is not your normal 17-year-old. Besides that fact that she has seen a monster, she also can’t be killed. She can be hurt but she always heals. While it makes her completely different than everyone else, it is not a bad trait to have when you find yourself in the middle of an apocalypse. Los Angeles has been taken over by deadly vegetation and animals and there are fewer survivors every day. Miriam thinks she should keep going it alone but when she meets a group of survivors including Camila, who Miriam can’t help but have a little crush, Miriam realizes being alone might not be the way to survive after all.
I liked the set-up of the book. A jungle-like LA with poisoned plants that have a mind of their own and vicious moneys that could easily kill, I like that this is not the normal apocalypse world. I think the main issue for me was the length of this book. I think it was too short for this type of story. There is so much going on and trying to pack so much in, there just wasn’t enough details for me to feel really immersed. I got the setting since that was well done, but easier questions like even knowing how long this new world has been going on for I don’t know. At one point, it seemed like weeks, and then it was months and months? The characters themselves were fine and reasonably likable but again there weren’t enough details about them. Unless I missed it but I don’t think the main character’s age was ever mentioned. I just saw that she was 17 from the book blurb. I was guessing she was maybe 19 or 21. It was hard to have clear pictures in my mind of what most of the characters even looked like.
It’s sometimes hard to put into words why a book does or doesn’t work for us readers. I am struggling a bit here. This wasn’t bad, it was easy to read and I was entertained, it was just missing something to make me emotionally connected. In an apocalyptic book, I want to worry than any character could die at any time. The problem here was I don’t think I was connected enough to really care if that happened or not. There were lots of good ideas here but I can’t say that this was any better than just okay. As far as I know, this is a debut for the author. I think she shows some potential so I would be willing to give her another chance. 3 stars.
An ARC was given to me for an honest review.