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She picked up the book, the one that had caused all this trouble, and held it between two gloved fingers as if it was dirty. And it was. At least everyone in this room believed that it was. And that was good enough. George Orwell’s 1984. A half remembered line from the book flitted through Sash’s mind: ‘The best books . . . are those that tell you what you know already,’” Sash. - The Buried
by Melissa Grey
As far as the three families in the bunker underneath a manor know, they are the last people on Earth. An event—The Cataclysm—drove them underground. They narrowly escaped death by sunlight that suddenly seared their skin. That was ten years ago. Now, seventeen-year-olds Sash, Yuna, and Gabe struggle to remember life on the surface. Every night they sit with their families and watch as Dr. Moran puts on a hazmat suit and leaves the bunker, and every night she returns with the same news, “It still isn’t safe . . . We’ll have to stay down here just a little bit longer.”
Not going outside is the most important rule the doctor has insisted they live by, but it’s far from the only one. Skin-to-skin contact is forbidden, natural light must be avoided, and the truth must always be told. The three main characters long for “something besides fake sunlight and tasteless gruel and a never-ending parade of tasks designed to keep them alive.”
Gabe, who works with his father to maintain the bunker, uncovers a hidden secondary hatch to the surface. He, Yuna, and Sash venture into the decrepit mansion above. From there, the three slowly begin to unravel the truth, Dr. Moran grows more suspicious, and eventually confirms their violation of her most important rule.
Each chapter alternates between the perspectives of Sash, Yuna, and Gabe. The story might have been stronger had it opted to be told in the first person rather than the third person, as it would have helped the perspectives stand out from one another a bit more. As is, the reader gets a decent feel for the three characters, and their dynamic is enjoyable. Most of the other characters lack dimension. The most egregious case is Sash’s older brother, Misha, who becomes cartoonishly sadistic in the latter part of the book after scarcely being involved in the story beforehand.
Dr. Moran’s leadership has made most of the adults “malleable,” so she is able to “mold them into what she wanted them to be.” Still, what the parents condone—and participate in— in regards to Moran’s punishments of their children stretches the suspension of disbelief. The reader can sense early on that Moran will ultimately be a villain, but readers will find themselves questioning why none of the adults have grown suspicious of her.
Ultimately, The Buried is a quick read. Readers will be drawn into the claustrophobic atmosphere and curious to find out what is really going on, though parts of the story remain fuzzy in the end, such as the exact origin of the creatures Moran has apparently created. The story would have benefited from better pacing, as it feels like too much happens at the end and the reader might get confused if they don’t pay close attention. The rushed conclusion may make The Buried a disappointing read. Readers may want to choose a more interesting read such as They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera or I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal.
- Moran has a conversation with Sash in which Dr. Moran senses Sash has feelings for Yuna. Dr. Moran assures her that such thoughts are “completely normal, especially for a girl [her] age.” She says she sympathizes with her desire to be touched but reminds her that skin-to-skin contact is forbidden.
- When they were younger, Sash, Gabe, and Yuna read a romance novel. Sash recalls “Gabe blushing furiously every time two characters kissed.”
- Sash and Yuna have developed a crush on each other. During a tense moment in the climax as the two need to split up, Yuna grabs Sash’s arm. As Sash begins to ask what she is doing, “the question [ends] with a collision of lips.”
- When visiting the surface, Gabe encounters a man who eats a live rat. “Blood spurted around his jaw as his eyes closed in ecstasy . . . the rat struggled in the man’s bandaged and bloodied hands.”
- When Sash demands more information from Dr. Moran about what happened to her father, who died shielding her from The Cataclysm, Moran says, “Do you want to know the gory details? Do you want to know how his skin crisped on the outside while his organs liquified . . . that he felt the skin slide off his bones?”
- Moran killed Sash’s grandmother with a toxin. Yuna finds a journal entry where the doctor recorded: “moment from ingestion to cessation of cardiac activity – 18 minutes. Remains disposed of in incinerator.”
- Yuna is being chased by several of Moran’s creatures while running through the mansion. She kills a creature that attempts to attack her with a sword she found in a display case, “the blade cleaved through the skull – oddly soft.”
- After Gabe went to the surface, Dr. Moran punishes him. Dr. Moran has the group take a vote. Gabe’s mother is the tie breaker, who allows Moran to slice off two of Gabe’s fingers. After the vote, Dr. Moran brings “the knife down, hard and swift and merciless.” When we next see Gabe, his fingers are gone and there is a “bandage around his hand.”
- Sash’s older brother, Misha, attempts to strangle her. “Sash’s fingers clawed at his hands but it wasn’t enough. Her fingers were numb. Weak. Limbs refused to listen to the commands her oxygen starved brain was sending them.”
- Before Misha can succeed in killing his sister, he is attacked by one of Dr. Moran’s creatures. The lights in the bunker go out, so Sash only hears the exchange. “A gurgle cut short. The snap of a bone.” Moran appears and shoots the creature and kills Misha as well. When the lights come back on, Sash sees her brother and the creature “locked together. Joined by the single bullet that had ripped through one and entered the other.” The scene is described over four pages.
- Moran’s creatures ambush a group of people in the bunker. While the others manage to escape unscathed, Gabe is attacked by a creature that is described as having “a skull, misshapen. Half smashed. A face so completely covered in scars its features were subsumed.” Gabe fights the creature off while the others run. This takes place over three pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- There is a stash of medications in the bunker that are “used so sparingly [they] might as well not have [been] used at all.” Gabe is implied to be given one of these medications after his fingers are cut off to subdue him.
- Ass is said once.
- Yuna’s mother reminds her that they pray before every meal.
- During a conversation with Dr. Moran, Sash says, “Oh, Jesus.” Moran retorts, “A false prophet, but I digress.”
- Sash says she isn’t sure “she [believes] in God. She [isn’t sure] what she believed, if she believed in anything at all.”
- Yuna finds her mother praying. “The crucifix pendant dangling from the thin gold chain around her neck was still clasped firmly in [her] hand.”
- In a moment of terror, Yuna prays to “every god—dead gods, forgotten gods, vengeful gods, and merciful gods.”
by Erin Cosgrove