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  • Mandy McHugh

Bearmouth, Liz Hyder: A Review

This book was in the recommended feed on NetGalley and the cover immediately caught my eye. That is haunting, right there. I was pleased to be approved and happily dove in.

Newt has lived and worked in Bearmouth, a mining system, for as long as he can remember. Every day is the same, grueling and mindless, until the newest boy in the cave asks a single question: Why? As simple as that, Newt begins to question everything around him, and soon realizes that there may be more to life than darkness. Mayker sayve me. To begin, this book is an experience. Hyder's writing reminds me of my college days when I learned how to read and speak in Middle English. Bearmouth is written almost phonetically, mimicking Newt's own struggles to understand English. This added so much texture to the narrative voice and character development, so while it takes a few pages to get used to, it is ultimately a beautiful stylistic choice. As the story progresses, we see Newt deconstructing spelling and words and cheer on the educational journey. *Side note, I can see where this could be off-putting for some readers, but I found this to be an enjoyable adaptation.* Bearmouth reminded me of Plato's allegory of the cave, Hunger Games, and A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, a wonderful blending of literary and commercial narratives. Hyder's handling of the overarching themes of social inequality, politics, and class warfare is insightful as it is moving. At times, I felt claustrophobic, that the narrow walls of the mines were closing in on me, and that is the type of plot development I like from a dystopian text. Beneath the bleak tragedy, however, is a resounding hope, moments of spiritual awakening, where characters question the established belief in "the Mayker" and work through doubt in order to learn about themselves and the world around them. At its heart, Bearmouth is a story about faith, love, and the never-ending quest for truth. Quiet yet powerful, Bearmouth is one you should add to your TBRs immediately. If you like your books emotionally taut and purposeful, this will be the read for you. Big thanks to Norton Young Readers and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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