Review Blog

Aug 21 2017

The undercurrent by Paula Weston

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Text, 2017. ISBN 9781925498233
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Science fiction. Julianne De Marchi is different - she has the ability to use an electrical current under her skin to light a fire or hurt someone. But she doesn't understand her power and doesn't know how to control it. When she goes off in search of job, she doesn't realise that Ryan Walsh is following her and when there is a huge explosion in the building, they have to help each other to get out. Why is an experimental military unit taking interest in her and her former activist mother and how will they evade the danger?
The novel opens with a stirring scene as Jules tries to enter the Pax Federation building and from then on the action is intense with Jules and Ryan making a dangerous escape from the building and Jules and her mother having to go into hiding. Jules is a great character who has to come to grips with an amazing power. Ryan is engaging as the ex-footballer whose knee was injured and who has joined the experimental unit, getting help for it. All the adults are fully fleshed out: Angie her mother once campaigned against bio-engineering and big business, but suddenly stopped, and the Major is an enigmatic but powerful person.
Big themes like bio-engineering, genetically modified food and what it does to small farmers trying to hold onto their land like Ryan's parents and brother, and the power of big companies to manipulate the government all get a fascinating treatment here and the reader will be swept along questioning the role of government in addressing environment and economic threats. However it is the plot and the idea of an electric current zinging along in Jules body that makes it a stand-out read.
This is a book that readers will want to finish in one sitting as I did. It is a fantastic stand-alone novel, suitable for literature circles or as a class novel. Teacher's notes are available online.
Pat Pledger

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