A close-up of a girl's face looking at the reader while floating in the water.

About the Book

Title: The Vanishing Deep
Published: 2020
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Dead in the Water
BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia
Talky Talk: Dystopian
Bonus Factors: Diving, Sisters
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Just Friends

Cover Story: Dead in the Water

The angle of the young woman’s head says that maybe, just maybe, we’re looking at someone who recently passed, regardless of the flush of her cheeks or the rosiness of her lips. It also has serious shades of noir mystery to it, like the woman was a starlet in the 1940s or 1950s.

The Deal:

Tempe’s been on her own for the two years since her sister—a skilled diver—drowned. Tempe’s been working every day to salvage what she can from below the surface of the oceans, which cover most of the world. Tempe finally saves enough to pay for Elysea to be revived, but only for 24 hours.

Normally, Elysea would never know she had died and would return to death none the wiser. But Tempe’s revived her to learn what really happened the night their parents died, and her probing questions lead the two sisters on a literal race against time to discover the truth.

BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

Tempe is single-minded and doesn’t have time—or seemingly any wish—to spare on friends. I totally get her need for the truth, but it would be hard to be friends with someone who’s only out for one thing. Sadly, I never connected with her enough to really want to push the issue.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5–7

When Elysea is revived, Tempe is assisted in the process by Lor, a young man with secrets of his own. He’s immediately smitten with Tempe’s stormy nature and quickly ends up part of the sisters’ crazy and not-so-well-thought-out plan. Tempe hates him, but also can’t fully push him away. It’s a little instalovey at first, but it gets a lot more realistic by the end of the novel. (Not really spoiling things here .. like I said, it’s instalovey and you can see if coming from a mile away.)

Talky Talk: Dystopian

Although it’s billed as a fantasy, The Vanishing Deep really leans into dystopian and science fiction themes. The world in which it’s set underwent a massive environmental event at some point in the not-too-distant past; the oceans rose and covered most of the planet, forcing people to learn how to survive in a very Waterworld-like situation. Scholte doesn’t expressly say that the world is Earth, but … you know. It’s extremely believable—although I don’t much care to dwell on it—that something like what happens in Tempe and Elysea’s past could happen in our near future. (CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL, Y’ALL.) Additionally, the “bad guys” in The Vanishing Deep are people who profit off of the hardship of others, which is another too-familiar trait. It’s a cautionary tale, if I’ve ever read one, couched in a family quest/race against the clock adventure.

Bonus Factor: Diving

sculpture at bottom of ocean

I once tried to get my scuba diving certification, but a scary incident in a pool stopped me and I’ve never wanted to try again. But the idea of swimming amongst the relics of the past is super intriguing. Plus, even in our not-quite-dystopian world (*nervous laugh*) there’s SO much to explore under the surface of the sea!

Bonus Factor: Sisters

Mary Anne and Dawn, dressed up and standing together (The Baby-Sitters Club)

I only have a sister through marriage, and I’ve always been super content with being an only child, but I do enjoy stories about people with siblings. I might not understand the relationships, but they’re fun to read about. Who doesn’t want a person in their life who has to love you no matter what, and who can call you on your shit (and vice versa)?

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

There’s a mother in this book who is sort of evil? And in the worst, “I’m doing this for the good of everyone, of course” kind of way.

Relationship Status: Just Friends

I had hoped we’d have more of a connection, Book, but I understand that you had your own thing going on and there wasn’t much room for me in it. I’m not offended, especially since I think there might be room for us to hang out occasionally. Just as friends, though? No need to push it farther than that.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Vanishing Deep is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.