Summary: Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labor and isolation, the sunlit world far above the mine a distant memory. Newt has lived in the mine since the age of four, and accepts everything from the harsh working conditions to the brutality of the mine’s leaders—until the mysterious Devlin arrives and dares to ask the question, “Why?” As tensions rise, Newt is soon looking at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective—challenging the system and setting in motion a change of events that could destroy their entire world.
An utterly distinctive voice, propulsive and page-turning storytelling, high stakes, heart-stopping twists, and a sense of moral purpose make Bearmouth an unforgettable and unparalleled debut. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)
My Review: I didn’t know at all what to expect from this book. I read the description, I looked at the cover, and yet nothing prepared me for what it would be like to read it.
I felt like this book and its presentation made the story almost tangible. I saw one reviewer on Goodreads who rudely insinuated that this was a “Hooked on Phonics nightmare,” and I would just like to point out that it was a conscious decision of the author to have the writing style such as it was, and I, for one, thought that it was very effective in conveying the age and learning of the first person narrator. There is no doubt that the style could slow one down at times. I’m a very fast reader, and this relatively short book took me a little longer to read just because of the writing, which is very phonetic, but also includes the dialect. However, as I said, it was extremely effective in creating an environment and fleshing out the narrator’s character. I thought it was brilliant, actually, and made the voice of the character extremely strong and ever present.
Straight up, this book was frightening. It starts out scary, and the environment is foreboding and devolves as time goes on. There is nothing scarier than the evil of an evil human, and the circumstances alone were scary let alone making the children out to be prey. This book was so disturbing to me that I had to look up the historical situations it was based on i.e. children used in mines and, unfortunately, it was very true. And that scared me even more! I know I’m not alone in saying this, and I certainly don’t have the corner on the market of feeling different after having children, but it is hard to read about child exploitation, abuse, and endangerment after having children. It just makes it so much closer and scarier to think of my own children being put in a situation like this. However, it wasn’t just because I have children that this was a very scary book. Hyder does an incredible job of creating an atmosphere, one that is as contained and unique as the mine in which it takes place. The culture that was created to force the miners to stay and not revolt was also really interesting, and when I did my online research and looked in the faces of those poor children who actually lived down in mines, it made it even more difficult.
I thought this book was super interesting and one of the more noteworthy ones I’ve read in a while. It is not for the faint of heart though. There is violence, sexual violence, exploitation, and oppression. I was really surprised it was a YA book because I would be very careful about which teens I let read it. In fact, I would be careful about what adult I recommended it to, but that is not because I didn’t think it was a really great book with an incredibly developed atmosphere, possibly one of the best I’ve read. It is a really great book, about a very important historical topic, and well-written. But it is scary. You’ve been warned.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
For the sensitive reader: This is not a good book for a sensitive reader of any age. There is violence, sexual violence, exploitation, oppression, and even some language.