Isla Morley's New Novel 'Above' Is Almost Too Realistic
Isla Morley's novel Above is both terrifying and shocking, and practically guaranteed to put a sense of dread in your stomach at some point while reading. The book, which follows sixteen year old Blythe Hallowell after she is abducted by a survivalist, stubbornly refuses to take the narrative where you might expect it to go, and yet is sometimes too realistic for comfort. Part psychological thriller, part brilliantly conceived nightmare, you should read it with all the lights on.
When Blythe Hallowell is first abducted by Dobbs from her hometown in Kansas and imprisoned in an abandoned missile silo, she believes she will soon get away or be rescued. She plots possible escape plans, she stays vigilant for any opportunity, and she refuses to give up hope that people above-ground will find her. But as days stretch into months and months stretch into years, the temptation to give up gets stronger. And after her son is born, she is totally unprepared for the prospect of raising a child in confinement. What is she supposed to tell him about the world he may never see?
Blythe's story is in many ways most chilling for its sense of realism. Her reactions, emotions, and thoughts are all perfectly believable, and this makes them absolutely terrifying. In many ways the story is not just about what happens to Blythe in the silo, but about what happens to Blythe inside her own head. How do you keep fighting when you aren't even sure if you should bother anymore? How does anyone, let alone a sixteen-year-old girl, cope with circumstances this dire?
Blythe lives in total uncertainty, her life out of her control, her only source of information the man who imprisoned her below ground to save her from the apocalypse he is convinced is imminent. And as horrific as all that is, it is her believable responses to her situation that make the story too real for comfort.
Yet at the same time, Morley is able to take the narrative in directions that readers would never expect. She keeps us guessing the whole time, turning page after page as we wonder right alongside Blythe if she is ever getting back to the world she knew, if she and her son have any shot at all for a happy ending. The story feels hopeless at times, but also as though a dramatic turn for the better – or the worse – could be just around the corner.
The book is gripping, chilling, and makes readers question what they themselves would do if the world as they knew it were taken away without warning. It's a story about hope and hopelessness, about resilience, and about never knowing what's going to happen next.