Above, by Isla Morley

I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 4 March 2013. 

The reviews you may have seen for Isla Morley's Above will not prepare you for the experience of reading it. The reviews lead me to believe that this would be the story of a young woman who is kidnapped by a survivalist who believes the end times are coming. She spends the next eighteen years, some of it with her son, living in a decommissioned mission silo. But that's only the first half of the book.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is kidnapped by Dobbs Hordin, her school's librarian. She had thought Dobbs was harmless, though a little creepy. She trusted him enough to believe his story about a car accident to get into his Oldsmobile. That trust is quickly shattered when he drives her to the missile silo she purchased and chloroforms her when she tries to fight back. Dobbs just can understand why she wants to escape. He believes that he is rescuing Blythe from the end of the world, which he thinks is immanent. Blythe doesn't believe this. It doesn't jibe with her idyllic memories of Eudora, Kansas and her family. Dobbs only offers rants and crazy theories when she asks about what's going on above them.

Dobbs rapes Blythe almost a year after her abduction and Blythe gets pregnant. The child is stillborn. To make matters worse, Dobbs kidnaps a sick child as a replacement when Blythe's mental state deteriorates. This section of the book is completely gut-wrenching. It's almost a relief when Morley jumps ahead a few years. Blythe's second child, Adam, is a healthy and curious boy. It's a struggle to keep him entertained and out of Dobbs' way, but he helps Blythe to heal somewhat after those rough years. She can never forget that they are trapped. After Adam's birth, she's doubly trapped. She's caught between Dobbs' paranoia and Adam's constant questions about the outside world.

When Adam turns 15, everything comes to a head. Adam can't be put off anymore, but Dobbs' refuses to take him outside. Dobbs won't tell Blythe and Adam what's going on. He just says they can leave later, always later. There is a fight and Blythe stabs Dobbs in the neck. They escape. That's the end of Part I. Part II is a new adventure when Blythe and Adam discover that Dobbs was right about the end of the world.

Yes, I wasn't expecting that either. This revelation turns everything on its head. Dobbs is still a villain, of course. Nothing can excuse what he did to Blythe and Charlie (the sick child) and Adam. But when it turns out that there was a series of massive nuclear meltdowns around the world, Blythe can no longer see things in stark black and white. In Part II, Blythe and Adam have to adjust to a world that neither of them could have expected.

This book had me hooked from the first chapter, uncomfortably so. I had my heart in my mouth for Blythe the whole time I was reading Above. And that twist! I was so not expecting that Dobbs was right. There are some pacing problems at the very end, but this book is incredibly well written. Morley hits all right notes when in comes to Blythe's emotions and giving us just enough exposition to set the scene while not bogging things down. This was a terrific read.

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