By: Nicole Lesperance
Published: September 13, 2022
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Gothic
***Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. And, thank you for your patience while waiting for this review.***
Paradise is one of those places I might have gone after dying, but didn’t. And as gorgeous as this island is, it’s not my idea of paradise if I can’t dive. Not to mention, no paradise would have that inexplicable, creepy laughter I heard in the woods. It must have been a bird—there are probably lots of strange species on an island this remote—but I still don’t love the idea of that laugh following me around for two weeks, (Chapter 3).
The subject of literary tropes continues to be discussed amongst readers, academics, literary critics, and authors. It is a common discussion on which tropes are common, overused, and under-represented within all genres. In speculative fiction, some tropes are expected—depending on the genre—to where the audience thinks they know what will happen in a certain narrative. Gothic fiction—at times—can have a melancholy atmosphere with or without a creepy setting. In other words, a gloomy atmosphere can drive the narrative in a Gothic story as much as a decrepit castle. The Depths by Nicole Lesperance is a Young Adult Gothic novel with a setting on a haunted island. That is correct. This novel—a Gothic horror one—reintroduces readers to the trope of haunted islands—not all tropical islands are paradise.
The protagonist in this novel is 17-year-old Adeline, “Addie,” Spencer. And, Addie’s summer vacation is off to a rough start. Instead of spending her summer vacation training for freediving with her friends and her teammates in Egypt, she is with her mother and her new stepfather, David, on their honeymoon. The reason for this is because Addie almost died in a freediving accident. She dove too deep, and she lost control of her breathing. Addie was dead for 8 and a half minutes before she was revived. In addition to damaged lungs, Addie has some post-traumatic stress disorder. Yet, it seems it’s more about what did NOT happen to Addie when she was dead: she does NOT remember anything after she died—no out-of-body experience, no “visions” of an Afterlife, Nothing. To make matters worse, Addie has to spend the next 2 weeks on a tropical island where she cannot go swimming due to the physical damage her body went through as a result of her accident. However, she’s not the only teen staying on Eulalie Island. After arriving on the island, Addie meets Billy and Sam—the sons of the island’s caretakers, Ken and Melinda Carpenter—who tell her about the island’s history, including the disappearance of 2 sisters over 200 years ago. In fact, when Addie begins to see and to convene with the ghosts of one of the sisters, it is Billy and Sam who believe her and help Addie with her intent to break the curse on the girls and on the island.
There are 2 plots in this novel, and both are parallel to the events in the novel. The first plot delves into Addie’s physical and emotional state as she recovers from her near fatal accident as she deals with P.T.S.D. and a “weaker” body. The latter is vital because it demonstrates the frustration Addie (and any athletic individual whose suffered an injury) feels about her current situation. The second plot looks into the “magic” and the “mysteries” of Eulalie Island. Addie cannot swim during her stay at the island, but as she explores the landscape, Addie reads up on the history of Eulalie Island. Addie learns about the disappearance of Lenora and Violet—whose bodies were never found—and begins to question the strangeness of the island. The petals on the flora change from white to dark pink in Addie’s presence; Addie and Sam are playing hide-and-seek with Violet—a 4-year-old whose been dead for over 200 years; and, Addie is meeting up with Billy at night, but he won’t explain to Addie his reason for sneaking around on the island at night (with its history). While the plots develop at a slow rate and seem to run parallel to each other, they are linked by the subplot, which is the island’s magic. Plants shouldn’t be able to change color that quickly, ghosts should be able to manifest, and bodies of water that erase pain should not exist; yet, all of these strange things exist on Eulalie Island and the appearance of paradise distracts almost everyone from the constant dangers of the island. The plots and the subplot are pieces of a large puzzle which don’t appear to belong, but they fit together as more pieces come together.
The narrative is presented in 1st person from Addie’s point-of-view and in the present tense. It should be mentioned that Addie’s stream-of-consciousness is essential due to the flashbacks of her diving accident. Plus, Addie’s exploration of Eulalie Island makes her a reliable narrator because we—the audience—learn about this island’s magic and mysteries alongside her. So, when Addie unearths one of the island’s “secrets,” our shocked reactions mirrors hers.
The style Nicole Lesperance uses for The Depths reminds me of a Sherlock Holmes story. There is a mystery that needs to be solved, there are clues everywhere which seem they have no connections whatsoever, and the culprit behind the crime(s) is NOT who you expect it to be. Now, take all of those components and put them in a setting which reflects a teen horror movie, and you have this novel. The reason why I’m comparing the style of The Depths to Sherlock Holmes is because as you read The Depths, you are waiting for the moment when all of the clues come together, and you figure out everything before you get to that point in the narrative. Except, you won’t because the culprit is NOT who you believe it’s going to be, which will leave you with just as many questions as the protagonist, which in turn will clasp your attention until the last page. And yes, everything gets resolved and explained at the end, similar to a Sherlock Holmes story. The mood in this novel is creepy. Eulalie Island is a private resort equivalent to paradise, yet the atmosphere, the flora and the fauna, and the island’s caretakers demonstrate there is more to the island than its appearance. The tone in this novel is impulse. Addie’s arrival to Eulalie Island with her mom and her stepdad arouses the island. The flowers, the insects, and the dead are alerted to Addie’s presence (which Addie does NOT desire).
The appeal for The Depths continue to grow with a Goodreads rating of almost 4-stars. Fans of similar (and recent) YA Gothic horror books such as Gallant by V.E. Schwab and Belladonna by Adalyn Grace should read this book. In my opinion, the reason why this book will have lasting appeal is because it’s a callback to the trope of haunted islands. It’s more than surviving the ordeal, it’s about solving the mystery behind the strange spiritual occurrences there. Think of the movies Old (2021) and Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998); or, if you want a better description of The Depths for appeal, then think of it being a combination of Lost (2004-10) with Glass Onion (2022). Readers who make it to the end of this book will be left satisfied with how all of the components came together and concluded.
The Depths is an intricate narrative containing the mysteries and the hauntings of an island paradise. YA readers will appreciate the relatability of the adolescent characters while readers of all ages will be entertained by the twists within the story. Make sure you have ample time to read the second half because you will breeze by it faster than a hurricane.
My Rating: Enjoy It (4 out of 5).