• Downsiders – Book Description

    Talon lives Downside, that is, underneath New York City. There is a strict code of secrecy among the Downsiders. However, when Talon accidentally meets a young woman named Lindsay, who is a Topsider (from above the ground), the two worlds inevitably collide. They become friends and love blossoms. The punishment for Talon’s lack of discretion could be death. What will happen to them? Will the entire Downsider community be discovered?

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Awards & Honors

American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults List 2000
American Library Association “Quick Pick” 2000
Virginia Young Reader Award List 2001/2002
Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award List 2001/2002
Nevada Student Book Award List 2001/2002
Indiana Young Hoosier Award List 2001/2002
Texas Lone Star Award, 2000/2001
New York Public Library “Best Book for Teens” Award list, 2000
South Dakota Prairie Pasque Young Adult Award List 2001/2001
Oklahoma Sequoyah Young Adult Award List 2001/2002
Iowa Children’s Choice Young Adult Award 2001/2002
Maine Student Book Award List 2001/2002
South Carolina Children’s Book Award List 2001/2002
Junior Library Guild selection, Spring 1999
#2 on the Barnes and Noble Teen Best Seller List, July 1999


From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up-The Downsiders live in a subterranean world far beneath New York City. Taboos forbid them from going Topside, but the two worlds collide when Talon, a Downside teen, ventures up looking for medicine for his critically ill sister. There, he meets Lindsay, a Topside girl who intrigues him so much that he breaks a cardinal rule and takes her into the tunnels, showing her an amazing place filled with cast-off items-dryer lint, subway tokens, soda-can tabs-that have become useful, even beautiful. Her visit sets in motion a dangerous chain of events. Talon’s friend betrays him to the authorities and Talon is sentenced to death (by being flushed through a sewer pipe). The story takes a fascinating twist when Lindsay discovers that Downside was founded about 100 years ago by Alfred Ely Beach, a 19th-century inventor and scientist. Facts about this historical figure and about the old New York subway system are blended with the fantasy until it is difficult to tell where truth stops and fiction begins. Unfortunately, there is no afterword to explain the connections and readers might miss the fun. There is also a good deal of sophisticated social satire, as Topside is seen through naive underworld eyes. Sometimes the plot lapses too far into the absurd and there are a few weak spots. The often mock-serious tone of the narrative may be lost on some readers. Overall, though, this is an exciting and entertaining story that will please fans of adventure, science fiction, and fantasy.
Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

5 Comments so far:

  1. Haley says:


    I read somewhere that a sequel to Downsiders was planned, but I can’t find it.

    Also, it seems the “a society of people living under NYC” and “a tunnel dweller meeting and falling in love with a Topsider” story ideas were taken directly from the 80s TV show, Beauty and the Beast. Did you have to get permission from Ron Koslow, creator of the show, to use his ideas as the premise of your book?

  2. CW says:

    How do the downsiders find food?

  3. CW says:

    how are the people educated in a downsider society

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