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Surface Tension

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  472 Ratings  ·  124 Reviews
When Cassie and Liam start swimming at the lake neither of them realises the dark secrets that lie beneath. As summer heats up and the lake waters become lower and lower, the shocking truth is slowly uncovered. And soon, both their lives will change - forever
Paperback, 234 pages
Published March 2011 by Walker Books
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First, I didn't really realize this was a 'middle grades' YA book until about nowish, coming here to review it, but actually - that makes me all the more impressed with this book. It's a quiet sort of narrative - lots of inner monologue and a slowly unfolding plot that does a good job of keeping up the suspense. I really liked the main character and the way her relationships with her family were developed because I think the narrative choices made by the author keeps it very true to the age of C ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, aussie-fiction
I found Surface tension quite slow yet it was still intriguing to keep me reading. Around half way through the book takes a turn and the pace picks up.
This is a rather quiet novel with unique characters. As the characters open up, the story really is quite captivating.
My age recommendation – 10-14 year olds plus anyone else who enjoys reading lower end YA
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The day that I was born, they drowned my town. The mayor flipped the lever, and everybody cheered. There were streamers and balloons and a really lame brass band. The people of Old Lower Grange ate sausages and potato salad while they watched their lives sink beneath a wall of water.

Cassie was born early. As a result, she has been plagued with breathing difficulties throughout her entire young life thus far. Her doctor has instructed her to swim six laps a day, every day, to make sure she is s
Emily Chanez
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The day Cassie was born, her town got submerged. While her mom was going into labor with her they were going the opposite way from the other people. As her town was slowly getting rid of water she felt like she was drowning with all the mysteries.
It all started the day Cassie was born. The day Cassie was born it was a chaotic day because she was eight week early, her town was being submerged, and instead of going to safety she was going to the hospital because she was giving birth to Cassie. Twe
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia, young-adult
Below is a dystopian/fantasy-esque book that follows Cassie, a girl who was born on the day that her town was drowned. Yes, literally drowned—the mayor flipped a switch and the whole town that they once new was submerged in water. Twelve years after the drowing and relocating to Upper Lower Grange, Cassie and her friend Liam are determined to fill in the gray space. They know something is weird, and they are going to figure it out.

I think this was a very good middle-grade read. While it wasn’t p
Overall, I enjoyed this book.

I very much appreciated Cassie, the protagonist. I thought Cassie was a thoughtful, sensitive, likeable character, who read a very realistic. I also enjoyed the friendship that developed between Cassie and Liam, especially as McKinlay wisely refrained from turning that relationship into a cheesy love story. Finally, the supporting cast of characters seemed to be realistic and interact with one another in the way that I would expect them too, including the dysfunction
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this middle grade book! It was short but not to short, didn't include any tacky love stories and had an awesome mystery! I do so hate it when people try to make twelve year olds fall in love, instead of just be twelve. This book is a perfect slice of life, and I need to check out more of this authors books...
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part mystery, part a story of courage and self-discovery, I loved this. The author does an awesome job with the characters, making them at once vulnerable and strong. The setting of the lake, the fire tree, and other elements made this come to life.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was pretty good. Not necessarily one of my favorites. Honestly I was expecting a very awesome book. This book was good but was a bit....uh....well, boring!
I would recommend you to read it though cause it is kind of good!

4/5 stars
Interesting/weird/cool book. I personally enjoyed this book at certain points. It is a little boring at some parts but enjoyable. Worth a read
Actual Review: 3.5/5 stars
Lucy Gottfried
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the book is good for young adult. i'm 16 and it's a quick read for me. but i enjoy the story. there's a bit or mystery and longing.
Interesting imagery, of literal and figurative surfaces and things buried beneath them. The mystery element adds suspense -- but it's not a horror book at all (though bodyless heads are involved).
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book surprised me, which is something that rarely happens and it is typically something small. However this book was an all around surprising book for me and I definitely wouldn't have been able to guess how it ended, let alone what happened in the middle. Trust that it has a happy ending. Truthfully I hadn't realized that the town was legitimately submerged underneath water and so was the town's secrets. The plot flowed easily which made it that much easier to slip into the life of the mai ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful story! I read it all in one sitting; once having started, I wasn't able to stop reading until I got to the end. It was extremely easy to settle into the charming narrative; I loved the way Meg McKinlay wrote. The writing was so readable- descriptive parts, dialogue and the thoughts of the narrator were all done well.

The little blurb about this book hooked me for reasons I don't really know. I was promised some mystery from the past that would be uncovered, but I wasn't quite sur
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted at:

I will be honest– it was the cover that caught my attention. Reading the blurb, I thought this was a dystopian of some sort (cause I mean come on, who drowns a town?), but that totally wasn't the case when I came about to reading it. It's actually a contemporary, but it had a touch of magical realism to it. I found myself drawn to the mysteries that the lake holds and it's past.
Below was a quick read, but I found that there were a cou
I read this book very quickly and when I was done, I definitely wanted more. I wasn't quite sure where this book was going -- it was one I picked at random on my kindle on a long train ride -- so I didn't know what to expect, and was pleased to see that it was a simple story about Cassie trying to unravel a mystery.

At times this story just felt like sketches of a larger universe. We get enough detail about the characters and the history of the town to be able to make the story work, but also the
What if everything you should have known and every place you should have been was gone. How would you feel? Well, it makes twelve year old Cassie feel disconnected. Reconnecting to that past is going to open up a big secret that will affect her family and friends.

“My Lower Grange is two hundred feet underwater.” On the Day Cassie was born her town was flooded intentionally because the town built a hydroelectric plant. Now there is a new town on the edge of a lake that exists where her town used
Jen  Bigheart
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this book and was immediately struck by the cover! The concept of swimming over a ghost town covered in water completely freaked me out. Who knows what is down there and what could float up? Turns out, that all comes into play. My favorite part of this story was Cassie's description about how she doesn't quite fit in - not with her town and certainly not with her family. She was born unexpectantly on the day the switch was thrown and the water covered the town. Ever since she was born she ...more
Dec 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably one of the "musing-est" books I've ever read that wasn't actually a slow read. The mystery of exactly what happened in the protagonist's drowned town (and the idea of a drowned town by itself) kept me intrigued until some real plot threads started to draw me in more. Honestly, I think this cover art for the book did it a huge service. I kept thinking of this imagery throughout my read, even though the drowned town isn't really visible from the water's surface in the actual novel ...more
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Below by Meg McKlinlay is a fantasy/mystery book which are two genres I don’t read. It was a strange fantasy/mystery book for me it was about a town submerging under pools and that for me is a bit strange.I would recommend this book to people who like reading mystery books that have to do with running out of time. People who like books that have the strangest conflict and ideas that had twist with fantasy books would enjoy reading this book.
The book is about a girl named Cassie who was born the
E. Anderson
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cassie was born on the day her town died. Or rather, the day that her town was purposely flooded and everything was rebuilt around a manmade lake. Everything is supposed to be the same. But Cassie, the youngest of her siblings, feels like she doesn't belong. She doesn't remember the old town, but her family does. Her sister and brother have memories from their old house, and she can never, ever be a part of that.

Cassie has always been fascinated by the lake, and, ordered by the doctor to swim re
Cassie Romano was born on an eventful day--the day that water from a nearby dam was released to cover Old Lower Grange, her hometown. The town's citizens were all relocated to another nearby area, New Lower Grange. As the town prepares for its anniversary, Cassie and her friend Liam begin swimming in the part of the lake that is off limits since it covers the remains of the old town. The water level has decreased so much that they are able to dive down and explore an old shed containing a secret ...more
Sam Musher
Even though I figured out the mystery about halfway through, I remained engaged to see how Cassie would solve it and what would happen when she did. (Middle schoolers probably won't figure it out as quickly as I did. It's certainly realistic that Cassie didn't.) The tone is quietly ominous. I appreciated the philosophical questions: when we tell history, what gets left out and why? What's the value in knowing the history of a place? Is home about people or places or some combination? I felt beat ...more
Ryan Gropel
The book "Below" by Megan McKinlay is a great book about a middle-aged girl and boy who want to find more about their old city, which has been drenched in water. So what they do is they swim out and look for wooden planks or something rusty. After a couple swims, the mayor finally catches them swimming in the lake. It turns out that he didn't want anyone in the lake because he was trying to find something, too.

I rate this book a 3 out of 5 stars only because the book wasn't that interesting unti
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
On the day Cassie was born, they drowned her town. The mayor flipped a lever and everyone cheered as Old Lower Grange was submerged beneath five thousand swimming pools’ worth of water. Now, twelve years later, Cassie feels drawn to the manmade lake and the mysteries it hides — and she’s not the only one. Her classmate Liam, who wears oversized swim trunks to cover the scars on his legs, joins Cassie in her daily swims across the off-limits side of the lake. As the summer heats up, the water dro ...more
Jenni Frencham
Cassie was born eight weeks premature, so her family missed the drowning of their town while they were driving to the hospital to welcome her into the world. Their town was intentionally drowned when a new dam was built, and the town moved a few miles away to higher ground. Now Cassie spends every day swimming to strengthen her lungs, but when she decides to swim in the lake that covers the old town, she finds secrets that some preferred to keep hidden.

I was initially intrigued by the plot of th
Fun-filled and mystery-loaded, Below by Meg McKinlay was a interesting read. The summary and back cover were really intriguing, and the book definitely lived up to my expectations.

Cassie Romano’s town was purposely drowned the day she was born, and now she lives in the new version of the town. Still, she’s interested with the manmade lake that once was her town, so she and a classmate, Liam, explore it when they can. When they start discovering objects in the lake, suddenly mysteries appear—the
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Below by Meg McKinlay
Candlewick Press, 2013 (first US edition)
Realistic Fiction
218 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

An interesting story set in an Australian town that had the damn opened up, and was drowned. The town was rebuilt nearby with residents all starting over in a fresh new location. While not heard of all that frequently, this is not an unheard of event. In fact, it happened here in Maine to a town called Flagstaff.
The idea of a town sitting at the bottom of a lake is enough to get you
Jasmine Rose
This was one of those "just okay" reads. It was a quick enough read and fairly entertaining, but I wasn't terribly invested.

The mystery was kind of interesting, but I figured it out for the most part from the beginning. The hints seemed a little obvious to me, but I'm not exactly the target audience either.

I felt a bit for Cass when she talked about being the odd one out in the family, because it did seem that way at times. At the same time, I didn't quite understand how this feeling made her so
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Meg McKinlay is a children's writer and poet living in Fremantle, Western Australia

She has published thirteen books for young people, ranging from picture books through to young adult novels, and a collection of poetry for adults. Her most recent publications are the picture books Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros and Drawn Onward (for older readers).

A former academic, swimming teacher, Japanese inter
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“I had always been the girl who focused quietly on the spine of a leaf while other kids ran around squealing.” 0 likes
“It was funny when you realized that none of the thoughts running through your head had made it into the outside world, that they were yours and yours alone.” 0 likes
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