Google+ Reading Teen: Going Underground by Susan Vaught

Monday, September 19, 2011

Going Underground by Susan Vaught

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (September 13, 2011)
Buy the Book:  Amazon

Del is a good kid who's been caught in horrible circumstances. At seventeen, he's trying to put his life together after an incident in his past that made him a social outcast-and a felon. As a result, he can't get into college; the only job he can find is digging graves; and when he finally meets a girl he might fall in love with, there's a sea of complications that threatens to bring the world crashing down around him again. But what has Del done? In flashbacks to Del's fourteenth year, we slowly learn the truth: his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo of herself, a teacher confiscated his phone, and soon the police were involved.

My review:

READ THIS BOOK!! If you are a teenager, the parent of a teen, or have a teen in your life in any way, READ THIS BOOK! It will scare you to death, make you want to scream and cry and hurt your heart. I hesitate to put too much detail into this review because part of my emotions were drawn from wondering what exactly had happened. The main character is Cain Delano Hartwick, who goes by Del. He is a 17 year old high school senior who is a talented athlete and good student. Del has a part time job and is also the main provider for a parrot named Fred. These credentials sound great until you get to the part that says Del is a convicted sex offender who has no hope of going to college, getting a decent job or living any kind of normal life. Even more astounding is the fact that the events that led to his conviction took place when he was 14 years old in the summer before his freshman year of high school. What horrific and despicable act could this young man (child) have done to cause this judgement? For me, the answer to this question is amazing and horrifying and sad. I don't know how factual this story is but the author is a practicing psychiatrist whose professional and personal experiences inspired this story. My perspective is most assuredly different now as a grandmother than it would have been as a mother but hopefully there has been some wisdom gained in those years. It is inconceivable to me that the life of a very young person should be ruined forever because of an error in judgement. As Del himself says, "In the eyes of the law, I am a criminal. I can't tell you I didn't do it, because I did. I can't tell you it was right, but I'm not sure it was wrong." A few pages before I read this in the book, I had the exact same thought. This story should make us take a hard look at the laws on the books and how they might impact those people who are not twisted and perverted and should also serve as a strong warning to us and our children.

This book has some strong themes in it including teenage sexuality, death, loss and the legal system. It would best be served to spark open and frank conversations between parents and children. Life is very different for teens today than it was even for my own children. I didn't have to worry about monitoring cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc. Being vigilant for our children's health and well being is a much more complicated task now and promises to become even more so in the future. The story holds your interest throughout as you get to know Del and his situation. I recommend it highly.


  • Sexual Content: Heavy
  • Profanity: Heavy
  • Violence:  Mild
  • Other Notables:  None
For more details, check out Going Underground on Parental Book Reviews.


  1. I have put this on my "order" list for my high school library. Thanks for the great review. If you haven't read "Trigger" by Vaught also, I recommend it.

  2. Wow. Great review. Adding it to my TBR pile. Stat!

  3. I totally want to read this! My library needs to get this book!


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