Downsiders By Neil Shusterman — A Memory Book

If Talon, one of the main characters from the fictional novel Downsiders, created a scrapbook, what would he include in it? What kinds of items were important throughout his journey?

Warning! This post has spoilers!!

1: Socks

Socks are an integral part of the Downside tradition. Downsiders will leave socks in certain places for people to find as a symbol of gratitude. This is because socks are fairly difficult to find in the Downside, so their value is much higher there. Talon (a Downsider, or someone living in the subway tunnels) gets offended when Lindsay (a Topsider, or someone living on the surface, as we do) does not show gratitude for the sock he left her, but Lindsay recognizes her mistake and says, “‘I’m sorry’…And she put it back into her pocket, finding herself oddly pleased that she wouldn’t be parting with it” (Shusterman 76-77). This exchange of a sock begins the story of Talon and Lindsay’s friendship, as both Talon and Lindsay have proved their liking for one another in their own respective ways. 

2: The “Bot”

Talon has broken the most sacred rule of the Downside by bringing a Topsider (Lindsay) down into the underground world. This event is the first stage of the book’s conflict, and he and Lindsay end up lost in the Bot, which “was one of the many unquestioned realities of Downside life. It was there, had always been there…the Bot was a Big Old Tunnel–a stone-lined cylinder that ran the length of the Downside and beyond” (Shusterman 95). It is said that the many tributaries of the Bot span the entire Downside. The Bot can be seen as a physical representation of the story’s plotline. Talon’s journey throughout Downside ranks is supposed to be straightforward, yet his curiosity leads him to get lost in the tributaries of his journey. By bringing a Topsider into the Downside, Talon has stumbled into an unexplored tributary, as such a grave offense has never been committed. Readers are engaged and curious to see if the tributary will be a dead-end or lead to something amazing.

3: The Sun

At the beginning of the novel, Talon expresses his yearning to see dawn, as Downsiders are not allowed to see the sun. Near the middle, he is executed from the Downside due to bringing a Topsider down, but the pipe that was supposed to bring him to his death had a break, so Talon ended up on Coney Island, where he saw and even enjoyed the sun. Finally, among the very last pages, Talon decides to make an entirely new world for his fellow Downsiders, among the abandoned skyscrapers of New York. Knowing about the Downside rule against the sun, Lindsay asks Talon about his strange decision, upon which “Talon grinned more broadly than Lindsay had ever seen him smile before. ‘Things change’” (Shusterman 242). The sun represents the beginning, middle, and end of Talon’s personal journey, just as dawn, noon, and dusk represent the stages of our day. By dusk (or the end of the story), Talon has brought the Downside population to new heights.

-Ayati M.

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