The Light at the Bottom of the World

“There has to be something in [the scans] that can help prove Papa’s innocence – even though the things and connections I ask Jeeves to look out for have become increasingly vague. It’s been three whole months since Papa’s arrest, and I’ve found nothing to shed any light on the vile accusations against him.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A

An underwater London, submarine races, a determined daughter, and futuristic technology. What is not to like? The Light at the Bottom of the World is part dystopian novel, part science fiction-adventure story, but is wholly likeable because of Leyla McQueen. This whip-smart teenager is set on having her father return from home, even if it means that she has to put her own life in danger. She is clever, but relatable, and focused, but just crazy enough to add some twists and turns to the story. Plus, the adorable British slang and homages to 19th and 20th century trends (Elvis and Oscar Wilde, for example), make this a witty read that you can really dive into.

Yes, there are a number of anachronisms – is it really possible that in only 89 years, the entire world has managed to be built underground and seemingly impossible technology is the norm? – but because of the clever plot, it is possible to look past these. Also, the central theme that the Prime Minister cannot be trusted makes it a bit more plausible that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than the Brits have been led to believe. All in all, while there are a few inconsistencies, or elements that are far-reaching, London Shah has crafted a clever multi-genre novel that is engaging and cinematic in scope.

Movie Rating: PG

The Light at the Bottom of the World has very little cause for concern. There is no noticeable swearing, there are threats of violence and action scenes, but no graphic descriptions of the bloodshed. There is an innocent kiss at one point in the book, but the romance is secondary to the rest of the plot, and Shah keeps it tame to allow the characters to slowly build a relationship. There is a lot of internal reflection with Leyla’s character, and she references being a practicing Muslim, weaving short prayer statements into the text as she heads from one adventure to the next. This book is not preachy at all, and largely remains apolitical, allowing the story to speak for itself.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes!

There are few books that pack action, adventure, romance, dystopian society, science fiction, and family relationships between the covers, but London Shah has managed to do that with The Light at the Bottom of the World. This book will appeal to males and females and has enough action to keep readers engaged, enough British slang to keep Anglophiles coming back, and enough twists and turns to keep YA fans on their toes. This is the first book in an anticipated series, and it absolutely leaves with a cliff hanger, but given how cleverly written it is, and the broad appeal of many of the messages – friendship, fitting in, fighting for what you believe in – this is sure to be a hit on your classroom or library bookshelf.


Leyla McQueen is a sixteen-year-old street-submersible racer in an underwater turn-of-the 22nd century London. Her street-smarts and fearlessness have proven helpful over the years, but even she has grown increasingly fearful as her father fails to return home. Arrested on what Leyla is sure are false charges, she becomes determined to prove his innocence and set him free.

After many failed attempts, she realizes that her last hope is to win the London Marathon which will allow her to request a pardon from the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, after securing first place, she is denied her request. Quickly, Leyla realizes that there is more to the story and that what she assumed was an innocent mistake might actually be a dangerous government plot against her father. Armed only with a James Bond-style umbrella and a mysterious and handsome helper, Ari, she will need to risk it all – and deal with a threatening Prime Minister, blood-thirsty Anthropoids, and Blackwatch soldiers, among other obstacles – in an attempt to locate her father.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. When Leyla returns from the London Marathon, what does she find at home? What does she suspect?
  2. What does Leyla realize about Ari after he helps rescue her and escape from Bia’s workshop? Why does this confuse her?
  3. What does Ari tell Leyla about the incident at the Faroe Islands?
  4. When Leyla uncovers the secret documents about returning to the shore, what does she find?
  5. What happens to Ari after Leyla hears the announcement that she is the number one fugitive in the United Kingdom? Why is she not able to help?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • The Ward by Jordana Frankel
  • Divergent
  • Flow
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