I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky
Published by Tor Teen on June 19, 2018
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 336 •Format: E-Book •Source: Publisher
Theo Mackey only remembers one thing for certain about the fire that destroyed his home: he lit the match.
Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A's and solid friends, he's only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.
But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make him question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.
If the cover of Dive Smack doesn’t pull you in, the synopsis is sure too: fire, family secrets, hidden memories and a possibly unreliable narrator are just some of the core elements that make up Dive Smack, a new thriller right in time for the summer reading season. I had the privilege of joining the blog tour for this buzzy YA thriller that runs in a similar vein to the Mara Dyer series where nothing is as it seems and the lines between psychology and the paranormal are blurred.
As the synopsis of Dive Smack indicates, protagonist Theo has some repressed memories surrounding a tragic family fire that he is supposedly responsible for that had a fatal outcome. Yes despite this trauma (or maybe because of it), Theo is an extremely high performing high schooler, and captain of his high school dive team, on the road to a Stanford scholarship. Now, I know next to nothing about diving, but it’s clear from the writing that the author is either deeply familiar with the sport or has clearly done her research, because not only are the dives and competitions explained, but the diving lingo is incorporated throughout the book with even the chapter titles being diving terminology phrases. I appreciated that the diving theme was carried from the title and cover all the way through the book and was a consistent element amidst the chaos that ensued.
Dive Smack is definitely a psychological thriller that explores the themes of nature vs. nurture, morality, the limitations of our minds, and more- there’s a lot to unpack here and a lot going on. While I did guess some of the major plot elements (especially at the end when the pace of the book picks up and a lot of plot points come together) there were still some I didn’t see coming, particularly regarding Theo’s genetics. I can’t speak to how accurate the psychology and psychiatry presented in this story are, but I always tend to enjoy stories that merge the worlds of what the mind is capable of with seemingly paranormal talents, as I think there’s probably a LOT more the human brain is capable of doing than we give it credit for.
Though I enjoyed the psychological thriller aspect of this novel, at times it was hard for me to engage with the dialogue because I found it hard to connect with the characters. Readers spend a lot of time with Theo and his BFF Chip, who while are amusing narrators, also had a very authentic male voice and it was harder for me to connect with their points of view on things, reckless decision making, and just overall bro-ness. However, as the story builds, Iris becomes a bigger part of the story and she was a breath of fresh air. She’s mysterious without being unrealistic, interesting without being quirky, and gave the most in depth explanation of tarot card reading that I’ve ever read in a YA book (I have no idea how accurate the explanation was, but it was super interesting none the less and I like that it was explained as something that had significant meaning to her rather than as just a hobby to make her more interesting). Honestly, at times I wished she was the protagonist of the novel because I feel like there was just so much more to unpack with her and her skills of precognition.
Overall: If you’re looking for a YA book that has an authentic feeling male POV and blurs the line between psychology and the paranormal, Dive Smack may be a good choice for you.
Favorite Quotes from the Book!
“…my Mom named me Iris, because of her love for the flower. But my dad went along with it because in mythology Iris was the personification of the rainbow, a psychopomp who escorted the newly deceased to the afterlife. He liked that, being a cemetery sexton and all. And I know this might sound crazy, but I hope, in some way, that means I was with my mom when she crossed over.”– Kindle Edition, Loc 2373
“Remember when Mr. Malone was quoting Darwin in class. He said, ‘It’s not the strongest of the species that survivesm nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.'”– Kindle Edition, Location 3516
“People aren’t erased from existence when they pass on. They always leave traces behind for us to remember them.” – Kindle Edition, Location 585
“The most important thing I’ve ever learned is that it’s never too late for anything important.”– Kindle Edition, Location 1231
Demetra Brodsky is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned writer. She has a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Southern California with her family of four and two lovable rescue dogs. Dive Smack, her debut novel, is dedicated to Pumpkin, the monarch butterfly she once saved from the brink of death. Once you read the book, you’ll understand why. She is a first generation Greek-American and a member of International Thriller Writers. Dive Smack is a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection.
– One hardcover copy of Dive Smack
– Swag Pack- Dive Smack Necklace and Bracelets, Signed Bookmark, Bookplate
– US Only Please
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