Book review

Underworld by Catherine MacPhail (2004)

OK. Think of the worst school trip you've ever been on. Your best mate can't come and you end up sharing with all the wrong people.

'This is going to be one awful trip!' Zesh moaned.
'At least we agree about somethin',' Axel said. 'This place is a dump.'
Now, you get to play one of those teamwork games. You all put on welly boots and tin helmets and rope yourselves together and go down a hole in the ground. A really deep hole.

It's a caving expedition on a remote Scottish island. There's Zesh, the prefect, who tries too hard because he's got a pushy father. He's about to find out that just wearing a badge isn't quite enough to give you any authority. There's Axel, the bully, who bullies because that's what he's learnedat home. He's going to find out that even if he does hate everyone, he still needs someone. There's Liam, Axel's - what? Not friend. Sly as a fox, that one. There's Fat Angie, oozing out of her shorts,butt of everyone's unkind jokes.And there's Fiona Duncan:

'Axel? Where did he get a name like that?' someone asked Fiona.
'It's short for axe murderer,' she said without a moment's hesitation. 'That's his chosen weapon of mass destruction. Or it will be when he figures out which end is which.'
She laughed loudly, so did everyone else.

Actually, Fiona's a lot nicer inside than she lets on. Heart of gold, somewhere in there, along with the purple hair and the smoker's cough.

Now, what do you rate their chances of working together as a team when things go wrong? Who, among this lot of misfits, do you think is going to turn out to be a natural leader?

Want to know? Read the book. It's a bit of a page turner actually, this one, as I found to my cost, sitting up in bed late one night.

What can I read next?

I think the teamwork must have helped because I really rather liked all those characters by the end. If you would like to read more by Catherine MacPhail, have a look at this title:

  • Run Zan Run

Or, if you really have a soft spot for the Worm, and would like to get to know him a bit better, you should really have a look at this story by Paul Shipton:

There is another brilliantstory about teenagers trapped togetherunderground, which you might enjoy, by Michael Coleman:

  • Weirdo's War

And, I think, some of the best stories about teenagers in trouble are written by this man: Keith Gray. Have a look at these two:

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