Susan Vaught has a knack for tackling sensitive subjects in her novels; online predators, teenage depression and suicide, and now, sexting. Sexting is a crime, but Vaught’s book seems to ask, how wrong is it? Is it possible for two teenagers to be in love? And when did falling in love become a crime? Going Underground centers on Del Hartwick as his life is turned completely upside down. After he becomes a convicted felon, everything changes. His girlfriend and others affected by his “crime” move away, leaving Del with nothing but a comedic parrot he didn’t ask for, a job digging graves, and a goth girl who won’t leave him alone. Gradually, the events leading up to his felony three years ago are revealed. In the present, Del meets someone new – someone who likes him despite everything he’s done. But how long before she leaves him too?
This is the first Vaught novel I’ve read, but since then, I’ve read two others. She’s a phenomenal author with a unique style that I love. Her chapter titles are based off of specific songs and I recommend listening to said song while reading each chapter. It seems hard to believe, but they make perfect sense, adding a little something to the story. The characters in the book are few, which sometimes can be a bad thing, but Susan Vaught pulls it off. The story is in first person, told through Del’s eyes, during the days three years after his incident, and flashbacks to the incident are sprinkled throughout. I’m not a fan of flashbacks to be honest. I’d rather the author explain what happen in the opening chapters as a prelude to the current story, or have the past be brought up naturally throughout the book. Flashbacks make the story slightly confusing in my opinion, but that is really the only drawback to the book.
Arguably the most important part of a novel is the conclusion – the grand finale. Let me assure you, this book delivers. There’s a good twist and a bit of love–I can’t imagine a better way to end the story. Susan Vaught, as mentioned, tackles sensitive subjects – ones people don’t discuss in public. You’ll take a peek inside your conscience, reconsider notions of right and wrong, and see what it’s like to survive without a future at seventeen. This is one book you don’t want to miss.
Caleb is 15, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. He’s the former author of a sports blog that has been featured by several major outlets. He also writes short stories and develops novel ideas whenever possible, and, obviously, loves to read. Follow him on twitter @CalMM15.