Cover of Beneath. A ladder descends into an ominous looking manhole

About the Book

Title: Beneath
Published: 2015

Cover Story: The Fire Down Below
Drinking Buddy:
Fishin’ in the Dark
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (violence, intense action)
Talky Talk:
I’m Goin’ Down
Bonus Factors:
Secret Underground Society, Librarian
Bromance Status:
The Old Brotherhood

Cover Story: The Fire Down Below

At first, I was annoyed with the cover designer for making this look like some kind of horror story. Then, as I continued to read, I realized that wasn’t an entirely wrong impression.

The Deal: Pat O’Tool has always idolized his older brother, Coop. Coop was always kind of an oddball. He was obsessed with things under the ground. He dug miles (literal miles) of tunnels under his neighborhood, almost drowning himself and his brother when they broke through the neighbors’ pool. He eschews material possessions, refusing all gifts, except for some tap shoes from Pat. He vanishes from home, sending Pat cryptic letters about how he’s trying to make contact with the underground. Pat doesn’t think he’s referring to the French resistance. And then, the letters stop.

With both his parents dating irritating people, Pat decides to track down Coop in New York City. Soon, he makes contact with the Community, a group of people who have fallen off the grid and live in the abandoned basements, tunnels and caves below the city.

But there are other things underground. Things not as nice.

And they have Coop.

Drinking Buddy: Fishin’ in the Dark

Two pints of beer cheersing

Pat and Coop’s parents couldn’t be more respectable: their mother is an astronaut and their father won a Nobel Prize. But Coop has always been determined to do things his own way, to start all over under the earth. And Pat, while he’s not so much of an rebel, isn’t into the whole 9 to 5 thing either.

And then there’s Kate. Kate’s from the underground. DEEP underground. A girl who’s an expert in combat, urban exploration, surveillance, and moving in the darkness. She knows what happened to Coop. Maybe she even had something to do with it. But if Pat wants to find Coop, he has to trust her.

Awesome trio. I’d drink deep well water with all of them, any…whatever passes for day down here.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence, intense action)

Life underground is not all communism, friendly stray dogs, and ‘someone threw away a perfectly good turkey!’ Below the Community is the POD…the people of the deep. Just who are they? Cannibals? Monsters? CHUDs? Satanists? They say the POD people were all born down there. Some have never seen the sky. They want to be left alone. Not that they’ll leave you alone.

Pat and Kate descend into the hellish depths of the POD in a real life D&D adventure to rescue Coop. And Pat gets a feeling he might never return to the surface again.

Talky Talk: I’m Goin’ Down

When I picked up this book, I figured it would be a story about a society of amiable hippies and urban exploration. At it was. At first. But when Pat and Kate descend into the Deep and face off against the LOD (Lord of the Deep), things get real. Slave labor. Killer guard dogs. Mercenaries. Hidden cameras. 1960s anarchist groups. Mushroom farms.

Here’s a tip: when someone has lived in the sewers for decades, odds are they don’t like visitors.

Bonus Factor: Secret Underground Society

The Morlocks from the movie The Time Machine

Every kid has secretly wished they could go off and live in a cave with a group of awesome friends like the pirates and ninjas we were truly meant to be. Well, the Community is living the dream. A city like New York throws out a lot of good stuff. There are miles of abandoned subway lines, basements, and other forgotten structures. All they want is to do their own thing. Everything they have, they share. Food is for the hungry, their communal money is for those who need it. Some people live partial lives on the surface, others are happy to stay below. Membership is invite only; Coop had to fight for acceptance.

Where do I sign up?

Bonus Factor: Librarians

James Klise and Brian Katcher, snappily dressed, at the 2011 ALA conference

Kate, who one might say was rigorously homeschooled, is one day approached by a mysterious figure who only calls himself The Librarian. He brings her books. News clippings. He expands her world.

Who is he? What’s his game? Why the hell does he think it’s okay to remove books from the NYPL without properly checking them out?

Bromance Status: The Old Brotherhood

As a teenager, I did little more than carve the anarchist symbol all over my high school. Maybe I should have tried a little harder to completely drop out of society. Peace, brother.

FTC Full disclosure: I received no money for writing this review because I don’t need your capitalist blood money, you fascists!

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.