Maanalaiset (Undergrounders)

One morning when Metuli wakes up, her whole life has turned upside down. Sanna Isto takes the reader to an adventure of her life in the intriguing sceneries and underground tunnels of the bastion of Suomenlinna.

Maanalaiset by Sanna Isto in Read, Write and Publish

Author: Sanna Isto
Illustrations: Sami Saramäki
Publisher: WSOY, Finland 2016
Category: Middle grade, magic realism/fantasy
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 4/5

Metuli is a shy and careful girl just about to enter her teen years. She has a best friend Ama, loving parents and an irritating big sister Monna. Life is peaceful on the bastion island of Suomenlinna, right in front of the capital city of Helsinki, in Finland. But Metuli’s life is turned around one night, when she has the strangest dream ever. As the morning comes, nothing is as it used to be.

Metuli finds out that she has turned into an odd creature, an armadillo of sorts. And she’s not alone, there’s a whole group of these weird human-like armadillos living underground, in the vast tunnels of Suomenlinna island. They call themselves erwins after the first human who exchanged places with an armadillo in the early 18th century, Erwin Bamberg. When the bartering with humans was about to get out of hand, erwins forbid it. Until the night when Lisko (Lizard), an infamous hooligan erwin, snapped his teeth in Metuli’s leg and they exchanged bodies.

Metuli has to face a completely different life from what she’s used to and find the courage to fight against Lisko and his accomplices in order to stop them from exchanging bodies with Metuli’s best friend Ama or her sister Monna.

Sanna Isto has written a beautiful and gripping fantasy, situated on the island of Suomenlinna – a place full of intriguing history. Some of that history is integrated in the story too. Isto’s description of Suomenlinna brings the island alive even to those who have never visited it, and to those who have, it’s a tour of familiar places.

The adventure of Metuli is a fantastical metaphor of the process of growing up – the changes that sometimes, indeed, take place overnight – in a girl’s life. The story builds up quite slow in the beginning, but as it takes speed, there’s no stopping it. After many a twist and turn, Metuli with her old friend Ama and a new friend Limppu (Loaf, an erwin) creates a plan to beat her adversary, Lisko. But the decisive steps depend on Metuli alone – she has to muster her courage and decide what kind of life she really wants.

At the moment this book is only available in Finnish. It would be really nice to see it translated into English!



“Amazing adventure in the underground world of secrets

Can a nightmare turn into reality? Metuli, a girl living in Suomenlinna, wakes up one morning as an odd creature and even her own family doesn’t recognize her anymore. Gradually Metuli finds out what kind of barter has been made with her and who are the creatures living in the underground tunnels of the island. But doesn’t even her best friend recognize her under the strange skin she’s now wearing?

In this touching adventure Metuli has to face the intriguing past of the bastion island and herself. Maanalaiset/Undergrounders poses the challenging question of who we really are deep down.”