Late to the Party ARC Review – A World Below by Wesley King

Title: A World Below

Author: Wesley King

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: A class field trips turns into an underground quest for survival.

Mr. Baker’s eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. But when an earthquake hits, their field trip takes a terrifying turn. The students are plunged into an underground lake…and their teacher goes missing.

They have no choice but to try and make their way back above ground, even though no one can agree on the best course of action. The darkness brings out everyone’s true self. Supplies dwindle and tensions mount. Pretty and popular Silvia does everything she can to hide her panic attacks, even as she tries to step up and be a leader. But the longer she’s underground, the more frequent and debilitating they become. Meanwhile, Eric has always been a social no one, preferring to sit at the back of the class and spend evenings alone. Now, he finds himself separated from his class, totally by himself underground. That is, until he meets an unexpected stranger.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have heard a great deal from children I’ve talked to regarding how much they love Wesley King’s books. I can totally see why, too! A World Below was my first introduction to King’s works, and while I wasn’t in love with this book, I like it and I see the appeal as to why kids would enjoy it as well.

A World Below focuses on a teacher who takes his class to the Carlsbad Caverns. Our main protagonists, Eric and Silvia, are not entirely keen on this trip, and they worry Mr. Baker’s enthusiasm is not entirely warranted. They soon learn that their is a world below the caverns, after an earthquake separates the kids from their teacher. Shenanigans ensue, and we are given a story that is fast paced and full of adventure.

I want to stress that this is a very plot heavy middle grade novel, which sometimes I find a bit difficult because I am very drawn to more character driven stories. This book is not that, as it’s larger focus is definitely on the adventure regarding the kids trying to navigate their way through Carlsbad Caverns. If anything, reading this book reminded me a lot of the 80’s classic, The Goonies, which I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but that was what I was envisioning as I read the novel.

The kids felt a little too interchangeable for me, and I think that was where my struggle came with the novel. I wanted a bit more distinction in terms of personality, and I didn’t entirely feel that way. However, I think the maps and exploration aspects of the story were fabulous, and I think I would have adored this book growing up given it plays to a readers sense of wonder and desire to have answers regarding a situation. There’s also a playfulness in the writing that is utterly delightful as well!

I enjoyed my time with A World Below, but perhaps it wasn’t the best starting point for me regarding Wesley King’s works. I think this is going to be a novel that younger readers will absolutely gobble up and heighten their sense of exploration. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of The Goonies, though!

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