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Dark Life by Kat Falls is a young adult book set in a future America where land is at a premium and people pay for privacy as there is very little land left. The ocean has encroached on the land and people are living in cramped spaces after an event, the "Rising," has changed life as we know it. There are those enterprising people who have been forced to create communities under the sea. Even food is grown there, which supplements the "Topsiders," those living on land, as there is little space left for farming.
Ty has lived his whole life under water and, a diet including luminescent fish means, he "sparkles" - literally. He loves everything about the sea. He is the first person to have been born in the Benthic Territory and he, and the other children born there, apparently have special gifts - "dark gifts," from living life in "the dark." This makes others suspicious of them and their life in the ocean. Even though Topsiders rely on "the ocean dwellers who supply the nation's food and keep watch over the energy sources," those pioneers are "still freaks to them."
Ty, however, is currently preoccupied with the "Seablites," and outlaws who are sabotaging everything. Shade is the leader of the Seablite gang and has a "gift" of his own: his ability to change his color, thus blending into the background, making him very dangerous, as he can hide unseen. Ty, when he discovers this, tries to warn others.
In the meantime, Ty meets Gemma, a Topsider, on an abandoned submarine whilst she is searching for her brother. She will stop at nothing in her search or, as an orphan, she will be sent to a home, topside. Ty and Gemma begin to see things from a different perspective as they uncover surprising truths. Ultimately, despite thinking that Gemma's brother is dead, they will discover that Shade is, in fact, the brother she is searching for. The children are forced to reveal their secret powers, including, Zoe, Ty's sister who helps capture Shade which leads to the discovery of who he is. Later Zoe will resuscitate Gemma, using her "gift."
There are several interesting descriptions in the book, such as vivid image of the sea life, which contribute to its allure and there are events which hold the reader in suspense. Ty is ultimately forced to reveal his gift and uses his sonar powers to call a pod of dolphins to save the settlers when the Trade station floods after Doc Kunze tries, unsuccessfully, to kill Shade who has revealed that the doctor is intending to perform experiments on the children.
The book then is full of surprises, revelations and visual descriptions and the reader can decide which of these is most engaging. Perhaps the end, when Zoe helps Gemma, is most thrilling as it opens up the possibility of a sequel. Dark Life is followed by Rip Tide and Ty and Gemma's adventures continue.
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