If you like a quick read that will keep you in suspense until the last page, pick up “The Life Below” by Alexandra Monir. If you haven’t read the previous book, “The Final Six,” be sure to pick it up and read it first. You’ll find both books are hard to put down, as the protagonists struggle, first to make the cut to participate in an important space mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and in the second novel, to actually get there alive.
The narrators in “The Life Below” are Leo and Naomi, the two teens who fell in love in the first book. And while the relationship between the two is extensively described — Naomi is from the US but of Iranian heritage and Leo is from Italy — the story is primarily about the mission and the challenge of the young astronauts working through real challenges in space.
Naomi has ended up on the mission, but Leo, who deserved to be picked for the space flight, was left behind and replaced by a privileged relative of the US president, Beckett Wolfe. He’s insufferable and arrogant, and he’s hiding secrets that might be devastating to both the mission and Europa. Meanwhile, Leo is working with Dr. Wagner, a rogue scientist who started the space research but was then shut off from the project. She believes that there are dangers on Europa that the scientists have ignored, and she’s hoping that Leo can help the six astronauts, who might have no idea what danger they are going to be in.
The ending leaves an opening for a sequel, which readers would love. Sony Pictures grabbed the film rights; it’s a thrilling book and would be a thrilling movie.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by HarperTeen, the publisher, for review purposes.