Deep Water Review

Title: Deep Water
Author: Sarah Epstein
March 2020
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Readership: Young Adult
Genre: Crime & Mystery
Rating: ★★★.5
RRP: $19.99

I received a copy of Deep Water from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Three months ago, thirteen-year-old Henry disappeared from The Shallows during a violent storm, leaving behind his muddy mountain bike at the train station.

While Mason doesn’t know who he is or what he’s capable of, he knows the one thing binding him to this suffocating small town is his younger brother, Henry.

Why would Henry run away without telling her? One of Chloe’s friends knows something and she’s determined to find out the truth.

As Chloe wades into dangerous waters and Mason’s past emerges, a chilling question ripples to the surface: how far would you go to keep a secret?

Sarah Epstein’s debut novel, Small Spaces, was a delightfully creepy and disturbing young adult thriller that I had to read during the day with the lights on, and I was very eager to read her sophomore release, Deep Water. Not only do I trust Epstein’s writing, but  the plot sounded intriguing and it has an amazingly stunning cover to boot. While it didn’t live up to my (admittedly high) expectations after Small Spaces, it was a good YA thriller from an author to watch on the #LoveOzYA scene.

Deep Water is the story of how three lives intersect – thirteen year old Henry Weaver, who’s gone missing after a freak storm, his older brother, Mason, who’s ‘troubled’ and lives as the small town’s bad boy, and Chloe Baxter, their friend who’s come back to the town to spend the holidays with her father and find out what happened to Henry. Chloe digs deeper into the mystery of where Henry has gone and what happened leading up to his disappearance, including the secrets of Henry and Mason’s family.

I talk a lot about atmosphere in my book reviews, because for me, it’s an incredibly important part of a book. If an author can hook me into the setting and make me feel something – happiness, sadness, fear or concern – then that’s half the battle in getting me hooked done. There’s nothing worse than a book that doesn’t grip you in one way or another. Deep Water has atmosphere in spades, and it ramps up the longer you keep reading. You have the small (but not too small) town feeling over everyone knowing everyone else’s business – up to, and including, people looking the other way at family troubles being experienced by others. You have the emotions of a fractured friendship group, experienced by Chloe, Mason and their high school friends.

On top of that, you have the relationship between Mason and Henry, brothers who don’t always get on. Their story is told through flashbacks to the past and the current day situation and you can feel the struggle that they go through, day-to-day, dealing with their home situation, which is less than ideal, and how everything is falling apart around them. Both these boys feel like real characters struggling with real life problems that are bigger than them, and more than any teenagers should have to deal with. They are the heart of this story.

I did, admittedly, struggle with Chloe’s story and her POV. She is the typical YA female protagonist investigating something she’s deeply passionate about, which I don’t generally take issue with, except that she does it to pretty much the exclusion of all else. In her quest to uncover what happened to Henry, Chloe goes through friends and family alike, almost dismissing their feelings in the process. She also falls into the trap of being the teenage protagonist that thinks that the police not telling them what they know is the same as them not doing their job. (And I grew up watching Veronica Mars and I like that tenacity, but in this case it actually pulled me out of the story, because of course the police are not going to hand over case evidence and facts to a teenager!)

That said, I did enjoy the mystery element to this story, and definitely did not see the twist coming (or the events leading up to the big reveal). Mason and Henry’s story kept me reading to the end and hoping for a positive resolution to the last page.

And while Deep Water didn’t live up to Small Spaces for me, I do look forward to seeing what Epstein comes out with next. She’s definitely a go-to for atmospheric YA mysteries for me.

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