Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor Teen (June 19, 2018)
Author Information: Twitter
Length: 336 pages
My Rating: 2.5 stars
Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky is a solid debut novel, one which tells an easy to follow story filled with enough mystery, suspense, and supernatural elements to keep readers turning the pages.
Theo is a high school kid dealing with a lot of stress. His normal teen issues like school projects and a burning desire to gain a scholarship to Stanford University complicated by the fact he is an orphan. (His mother having died years ago in a house fire, and his dad passing away from a heart attack a year ago.) Theo now living with his grandfather, who has become a heavy drinker since his son’s death and emotionally unavailable.
The only support structure our young man has is his best friend Chip, his teammates on the school diving team, a girl named Iris he is definitely attracted to, and his Uncle Phil (not really his biological uncle but his dad’s best friend) who is also his treating psychologist. These people and the Adderall he constantly takes helping Theo cope with a reality marred by unresolved grief and an unspoken fear that he was the one who started the house fire which killed his mom and, ultimately, caused his dad’s death.
But just like it only takes a spark to ignite a fire, it only takes a family history project at school to set Theo’s fragile existence a blaze. His and his partner Iris’s harmless investigation into their families’ pasts leading to Theo having dreams of unremembered events, uncovering unknown facts, and, finally, learning horrible truths that lead to a final revelations which changes everything!
Probably the most enjoyable thing about this story for me was the mystery elements. I thought Demetra Brodsky wove her clues into the ongoing narrative skillfully and for maximum effect, never giving them too much of the spotlight, and allowing the suspense to build organically. This mystery driving my personal desire to finish Dive Smack to gain the answers to all my questions. The conclusion a fitting wrap up for Theo’s story.
As for criticisms, they are a bit more lengthy, but I’m not going to belabor my dislikes. Basically, I found the first half of the book to be rather slow moving, tedious at times, and rather dull; loads of buildup without any real excitement, if you will. This probably had something to do with the amount of time spent detailing Theo’s diving; a sport which I personally don’t find very interesting, but others might. I also never warmed to Theo as a protagonist, finding him to be a really difficult character to empathize with or even like. I also felt that there really wasn’t any thrills in this book, at all. Definitely, the mystery and hints of the supernatural are there, but thrills . . . No, not very many of those anywhere.
Overall, Dive Smack is an entertaining book which uses its clues, questions, and mysteries to keep afloat what would otherwise be a rather ho-hum affair. I did enjoy my time spent with this story, and I do believe others might enjoy it much more than I did, finding in Theo a modern teen in whom they can empathize.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.