In Deep by Terra Elan McVoy ( web | tweet )
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Simon Teen
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: swimming, competition, grief, addiction
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: School work, friendships, family, romance — nothing is going to get in the way of Brynn’s swimming. Living for practice and not caring too much about everything else, all Brynn wants to do is best her times in the pool and land a scholarship for college. But is her training and focus a bit out of control?
A theme in many of more effective books I’ve read this year lately is complicated main characters. I like to remind myself that I am never going to agree with or understand why any one person does something. Not even some super close to me. That’s just about how I felt about Brynn, a supporting character from Terra McVoy’s 2011 novel, The Summer of First and Lasts, who steps to the forefront in the addicting and complex In Deep. (Note: I didn’t much remember Brynn from an earlier reading of TSOFAL but, FYI, In Deep takes place before it.)
Brynn is a risk taker. She loves to egg on her best friend, Grier, and, in turn, loves to do stupid shit herself. She basically fills up her time with anything she can before returning to the place she feels the best — in the pool — working to perfect for times and feel like a winner. With her dad suddenly dying a few years ago and her unhappiness with how her mom handled the entire situation, she has basically shut everyone out. Sure, she says hi and bye and allows herself to play silly games with her stepdad in the car but, despite the title, it doesn’t go deeper than that.
It’s hard for me to explain why Brynn acted the way she did. Was she jealous when Grier met a new guy and completely ditched her? Why couldn’t she let Charlie be good to her and accept that he wanted more from her than just sex? All of this work focusing on swimming, not caring about schoolwork, not being honest with Grier — it was all bound to come to explode at some point, right? I mean, that’s the thing. In Deep felt like a ticking time bomb. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what all of this debauchery was leading up to, but, at the same time, completely charmed by Brynn sometimes too. Like the way she dispensed useful advice to her school friend, Kate. Or how admirable her work ethic was when it came to swimming.
But that’s the thing. Our life can’t be just one thing. No matter how good it makes us feel, balance is key to our well-being. I worried that Brynn was filling up her time with some very damaging habits because she was hiding from her mom, hiding from the death of her father, and never truly dealing with any of it. Just like McVoy did with Criminal, she completely immersed me in a world that felt dangerous: emotionally and physically. But there were also so many layers to Brynn’s behaviors and routines, so many shades of gray, that I found myself wanting so badly to be able to discuss all my thoughts with someone. My mind was all over the place — in a good way.
I love to be challenged in my reading, and I’ve grown to love McVoy’s writing with every book I experience because not one of them is the same. She is constantly stretching my limits as a compassionate reader, and introducing me to characters and situations that make me consider possibilities in my reading I never have before. Sure, there is something to be said about knowing what to expect from an author, but being surprised and satisfied? There’s nothing like it.
In Deep is dark and messy; it’s a story about how we can abuse control and routine, using it to shield us from the moments that catch us off-guard and what we do to fill an impossible void. Terra Elan McVoy continues to deliver memorable, authentic characters (leading and supporting) and moments that cause you to question your own convictions and press pause on just about everything in life until you reach the last page. (And then you won’t be able to stop thinking about it so… it’s never ending — in a good way.)