By Susan Vaught
Published on September 13, 2011
Published by Bloomsbury
Source: Finished copy from publisher
Summary from author's website:
He’s a good guy.
He has a great parrot.
He has a decent (okay, weird) job, a lot of dreams–and absolutely no future at all. At seventeen, he’s a felon without many options, and he’s almost okay with it. Almost. Until he meets Livia and wants much, much more of what life has to offer. Del must face his past and his fears to move forward, even though a sea of complications threatens to bring the world crashing down around him again.
Over the course of the book, we flip back and forth between the present -- a hopeless 17-year old Del, trying to keep his head down and go unnoticed by just about everyone -- and the past -- a 14-year old Del, with a girlfriend and a close-knit group of friends and hopes and dreams for the future. That was before Del got in serious trouble with the law and his life went off the rails. Now, he's just trying to stay out of trouble, which leads to Del avoiding any situation which could even remotely lead to a parole violation or inadvertent law-breaking. Slowly, Del reveals to the reader what happened to him three years ago, and just as slowly, he finds himself coming to terms with it in the present. (That's why I didn't use the Goodreads summary, the way I usually do -- it gives away what Del was charged with, and while it's pretty easy to guess, I felt like leaving that to be Del's story to tell.)
YA "contemporary issues" books don't always work very well for me, as they often feel forced, like someone just wanted to jump on the bandwagon of a popular, maybe controversial, issue. Going Underground didn't feel cheap or forced, however, and Del's narration and inner thoughts felt very real. He doesn't always sound like a 17-year old boy (or, at least, the 17 year old boys that I remember), but maybe that's because his circumstances have vastly changed his life and, in many ways, isolated him from most other people. He was an interesting narrator because you could see when things started to click in his head and when he decided to take control of his own life. I didn't expect to spend most of the last quarter of the book near tears, moved by Del's struggles, but I definitely found myself blinking back tears at several points. I also really enjoyed the role that music played over the course of the book. Several chapters are introduced with a "theme" song to set the tone. I'm a huge music nerd so I really appreciated the mini-soundtrack that the author provides.
The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the ending of the book. I felt like things were wrapped up a little too neatly. I feel like in the real world, Del's problems wouldn't have been solved quite so easily, but in the book, everything falls into place very quickly. A depressing book where life continues to suck and life's challenges continue to be nearly impossible to overcome wouldn't be very fun to read for most people, though, so I can understand why the author took a more hopeful tone.