Review Blog

Sep 19 2016

One would think the deep by Claire Zorn

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University of Queensland Press, 2016. ISBN 9780702253942
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Grief. Surfing. Family relations. Another hard hitting novel from Zorn is sure to appeal to fans. It's 1997 and 17 year old Sam is trying to come to grips with the sudden death of his mother from an aneurysm while he was dancing with her. Left bereft, he goes to live with his Aunt Lorraine and cousins Shane and Minty, who he hasn't seen for years. His family had fallen apart years before and he and his mother had been alone relying on each other. When he arrives in the small coastal town of Archer Point Sam begins to follow Minty around, learning to surf and trying to drown out the snapshots of disaster that he carries in his head.
With masterful and lyrical writing, Zorn brings to life the character of Sam, on one hand sensitive and intelligent, on the other angry and aggressive. His grief is overwhelming and his attempts to cope will resonate with readers, as he tries to navigate through a new life. He makes some bad decisions, deciding not to go to school, drinking, fighting and letting down new friends and ultimately has to decide whether to sink or swim. His feelings for Gretchen are beautifully portrayed, with all the angst and longing that the teenage years bring.
Family relations play an important role in the book and the theme of belonging is all important. Sam can't work out why his family had stopped meeting years ago and the author keeps the reader wondering about this as they are slowly revealed throughout the story. Ruby, Minty's friend, has to decide whether she will pursue her racial roots and find her indigenous family. Her story is an engrossing sub plot as she is as talented as Minty at surfing, but believes that getting an education and going to university is more important than trying to win surfing events. Minty too is an engaging character, whom everyone likes, but who is totally absorbed with surfing the waves.
Music plays an important role in the book. Jeff Buckley is Sam's favourite singer and a playlist at the back of the book will draw the reader into the music culture of 1997.
Some big themes are tackled in this book - family violence, racism, sexism, anger and grief - and all are treated in a complex multi-levelled way. This would be a great literature circle book or class text.
Pat Pledger

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