When Mr. Baker takes his sixth grade class to the Carslbad Caverns for their end of year field-trip, he assures them they’ll find awe and adventure. Turns out they find a little too much of both. Wandering the cavern’s depths, they get caught in an earthquake that sends them deeper underground and the students find themselves split up, teacherless, and lost in the middle of the earth. As they try to find their way back, they will encounter unrecognizable wildlife, conquer their own fears, and most surprisingly, meet a community of people who fled the above ground world long ago. People who will kill to protect their world from the demons on the surface.
A World Below is a fast paced and emotional survival adventure with elements of the fantastic. I stayed up late to finish it! I’d recommend it to kids and teens ages 9-13 or anyone who enjoys middle grade literature. Short digestible chapters told from several points of view keep the narrative moving and provide many cliffhangers without overdoing it. The setting is evoked in great atmospheric detail, creating a world that feels fantastical but not so much that you couldn’t believe it might actually exist in unexplored parts of the earth. The backstory of the underground community is underdeveloped and feels a little inauthentic – and it left me with a lot of questions. The conflict of their story is also tied up too neatly. A sequel is forthcoming so it seems those elements could have been fleshed out more (and likely will be). But other than that, I really liked this book. It felt highly original and I was excited to learn in the authors note that the caverns are real. I hope giant sharks live under them for true.