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Below the Surface is a Thrilling Ride Out of Dystopia

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • 2014 19 Mar
<i>Below the Surface</i> is a Thrilling Ride Out of Dystopia

Author: Tim Shoemaker
Title: Below the Surface
Publisher: ZonderKidz

Too much of a good thing is still too much, and for anyone suffering from serious dystopia fatigue (your intrepid reviewer also raises her hand), a thrilling young adult book that’s not set in a depressing future world is a pretty welcome development.

Thankfully, it’s not just the change of scenery that makes Tim Shoemaker’s Below the Surface such an exciting novel. In addition to having a twisty, high-stakes plot that feels ripped from today’s headlines, Below the Surface, a title packed with double meaning itself, features characters that are equally true to life.

Perhaps, it’s the fact that Shoemaker has written devotionals for boys in the past, but the dialogue in Below the Surface never feels phony. He really nails the way young guys talk, feel and process life, just one of the novel’s many strengths.

Zeroing in on the theme of fear, namely the one(s) that are buried deep down but are never really all that far from us, Below the Surface features a protagonist who’s about to start high school and has already been through a lot in life. Looking for a fun escape before school starts, not to mention a drama-free, relaxing detour from ruminating on his past (he survived an abduction of all things), Cooper and his pals set sail on a restored boat appropriately named the Getaway.

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Of course, we probably wouldn’t be reading about Cooper and his friends if the trip had gone according to plan. From the get-go, trouble isn’t far away from these young men, especially when a woman winds up missing with varying theories about what happened.

With a gift for nuance, surprise factor and slowly raising the stakes, Shoemaker continually keeps the reader guessing for nearly 400 pages with Below the Surface. But aside from the thoughtful plotting, what helps keep things rolling is a memorable supporting cast. While the story is clearly Cooper’s journey, the author gives readers plenty of people worth caring about, not to mention some valuable takeaway about the positive and negative impact of fear in our lives.

*Published 3/19/2014

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