Review: Downsiders

Cover of "Downsiders," featuring a boy looking up through a grate in the sidewalk at feet walking past above
Image from

Title:  Downsiders

Author:  Neal Shusterman

Genre:  Adventure

Back Cover:

Talon lives Downside – in the network of tunnels below New York City.  Lindsay is a Topsider – someone who lives above ground.  But when Lindsay’s book falls into the Downside, Talon returns it, sending the two worlds careening towards collision.  The punishment for Talon’s indiscretion is death…and if the Topsiders discover the Downside, the entire Downsider community will collapse…


After reading Neal Shusterman’s Unwind, I looked up every book he ever wrote and added them to my TBR list.  And when I found this one at a used-book store, I snatched it right up.

I have a suspicion that I’m going to fail at accurately describing this book, but I’m going to try.

The characters weren’t really a major factor in the book – at least Lindsay wasn’t.  She wasn’t in nearly as much of the book as Talon, and when she was, it was either with Talon or as set-up for meeting Talon.  I really didn’t get much of a feel for Lindsay.  It seemed more like she was just there because the plot required a Topsider.

Talon, as what I would consider the only main character, was the only character I really got a feel for.  He was impulsive, had a rebellious streak, and wasn’t afraid to be a little different.  He was also pretty accepting of different people and ways of life.  He wasn’t a highly interesting character, but his Downside quirks at least kept me interested.

The Downside was really what kept me enthralled in the story.  The idea of tunnels under New York City made me think of the Kiki Strike books (a series that I really enjoyed).  And then there were ideas like herds of cattle in the sewers, tagging – like graffiti, but with a point, “catching” people who want to leave the Topside and making them Downsiders, and the cavern with walls covered in old subway tokens.

I also loved the quirks of the Downsiders – leaving socks as payment, for instance – and also the historical elements of how the Downside came to be.  And I was definitely glad for the author’s note in the back, which separated historical fact from fiction – because there are historical facts in the book.

Despite the length (my copy is almost 250 pages) and the vast amount of plot contained in it, the whole book was a quick read.  It was quirky, fascinating, sad, beautiful … even a little unsettling, although I couldn’t tell you exactly why.

Even though I didn’t really love the characters, I loved the book.  It just confirms my reasons for wanting to read everything Neal Shusterman wrote.


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