Deep Water

Deep water
Written by Sarah Epstein
Mystery, Contemporary, Australian
400 Pages
Published March 2020
$19.99
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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A gripping mystery about a missing boy and a group of teenagers, one of whom knows something but isn't telling, from the award winning author of Small Spaces.

Henry Weaver is missing.

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.

Mason Weaver is trapped.

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.

Chloe Baxter wants answers.

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?
In the small town of The Shallows, the community has endured bushfire that ravaged the land and a torrential storm on the night that thirteen year old Henry Weaver disappeared, three months ago. Chloe Baxter has returned to The Shallows from Sydney, her parents separating when her mother was desperate to escape the small, working class town. Chloe's father manages a small roadside motel once popular with tourists and those passing through The Shallows, now small businesses barely keeping their heads above water since the local economy survived on the tourist trade.

Returning to town, Chloe is determined to find Henry once again, placing missing posters around Sydney provided no information to the whereabouts of her friend and upon return home, plans to begin the search once more. What happened to Henry? Why didn't he tell Chloe he was leaving and why is his older brother Mason so hellbent on destroying his life?

Deep Water begins with the story of the Weaver family, Henry, older brother Mason and their mother, a woman surviving on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. Growing up in the Weaver household, the boys are being abused by their mother, Mason's father has always been absent and Henry's father left for the big smoke, no longer able to withstand the physical and mental abuse. Mason has always tried to protect Henry from their mother's rage, bearing the brunt of her abuse and neglect as Mason begins to spiral downwards, desperate to escape The Shallows. Mason is an incredibly multilayered character, he's sensitive and hides his feelings in a bottle of alcohol, destructive behaviour and a notorious reputation.

Chloe is an interesting character, she's relatable but often unlikable and still carrying the grief of losing Henry, determined to find her friend and the brother she always wanted. On the night Henry disappeared, Chloe was meeting Raf, her best friends brother. Together they huddled in the small, ramshackle hut in the surrounding bush as Henry braced the storm and never returned home. Chloe and Raf kept their liaison a secret, to their friends and even the local authorities investigating Henry's disappearance, the local police officer once involved in an affair with Chloe's mother before she left The Shallows.

The most striking aspect of Deep Water is the writing, a masterclass in how to write multiple, multilayered characters while creating an exhilarating storyline. Australian young adult book of the year, without a doubt. The reader is introduced to each character as a dual narration from both Chloe and Mason, with sporadic chapters from Henry talking to a new friend he made online, Chloe's privileged life, although not perfect and Mason as he struggles to survive. Their characters are contrasting and once friends, as Henry was adopted into their ragtag group of friends, Mason begun to isolate, feeling left out of his friendship circle as Henry became more embedded. It's an issue that Mason resents Chloe for, choosing Henry's friendship and not reaching out to him. It's messy and realistic and written so beautifully, the delicate threads between friends becoming severed and mended in time.

Besides Chloe and Mason, I enjoyed the sibling relationship between Sabeen, Chloe's best friend and her brother Raf, Chloe's crush. Sabeen and Raf are wonderful, Sabeen a loyal and compassionate young woman and Raf, a quiet young man who has adored Chloe from a distance for the past few years. Sabeen's father is from Pakistan, a sperm donor Sabeen proudly announced when she and Chloe met at the tender age of only six years old, her mother's both own and run the local pizzeria, feeding the small brood of friends. Tom was an interesting character. Also part of their friendship circle since they were children, Tom's father is in prison while he was raised by his grandparents, his grandfather owning the local oddities store come makeshift pawnshop. Tom escaped The Shallows, studying at university while maintaining his friendship with Chloe and although unaware of his intentions, Tom is keen on Chloe despite her feelings for Raf.

Deep Water raises the discussion of several important issues throughout our communities. Poverty and low socioeconomical conditions, family violence, parent infidelity, alcoholism, violence, toxic masculinity and grief. Wonderfully diverse characters and stories threaded together with care and compassion.

It's magnificent.

6 comments

  1. Wow this sounds complex. Is it adult or YA?

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  2. Oh wow, this sounds like a beautifully written book but definitely full of some intense topics. That's great the author does the different POV's so well.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  3. Thanks for the review! I definitely need to dive into more Aussie reads and am glad this is up my alley being a crime/mystery read. Also like the idea that the characters are multi-layered, which means I should be emotionally invested in their story.

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  4. Ahh I LOVED this one, but the ending left me kind of all emotional. 😭It was so goooood. And it hurt!! I can't decide if I like this one or Small Spaces best, they're just phenomenal and Sarah is an incredible author!

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  5. Wow, this one sounds fantastic. There sounds like there is so much going on but I want to get to know these characters and find out their stories. I need to know what happens.

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  6. I didn't realise this was classified as a YA book. It sounds utterly, completely brilliant and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!!

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