ARC Review: The Deepest Blue by Kim Williams Justesen

Title: The Deepest Blue  
Author: Kim Williams Justesen
Pages: 275
Genre: Contemporary fiction, YA
Series? No
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Publication Date: October 15, 2013

Synopsis from NetGalley: Mike hasn’t spoken to his mother in years, and what few memories he has of her are painful. When Mike’s dad is killed in a car wreck, Mike wants to stay in his hometown and live with Maggie, his dad’s girlfriend, who has been like a mother to him for the last five years.

But Mike’s mother reappears in his life and demands that he return to her custody and live on the other side of the country with a family he doesn’t know. The law is on his mother’s side, and Mike will have to grow up quickly and take on the legal system to have the life he wants.

This deeply moving story of a young teen’s difficult family relationships reflects the reality of many children and teens with strong emotional ties to adults who have no legal rights in the instance of death or divorce.

Thoughts and Rambling

Can I, first of all, say how refreshing it is to read a book from a teen boy’s point of view? Being a female (unless I’ve been horribly mislead all these years), obviously I relate a bit more to female protagonists. But sometimes I really do get sick of my gender, and need a change of pace. The Deepest Blue provided that, and in a way that still tugged at my heart, despite the few parts that I feel didn’t work or bothered me. Possible Spoilers Ahead. 

Disclaimer: I was given a free ebook copy of The Deepest Blue through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
Character Bar

Okay, so there’s only two characters that I’ll talk about, and then dedicate a single paragraph to the remaining cast.

Maggie: Maggie is one of those characters that I just have to love. I mean, she’s not even engaged to Mike’s dad, but after his death she immediately takes on the responsibility of caring for Mike. Going through the adoption process, dealing with Mike’s crazy biological mother, and dealing with her own grief even when Mike is really insensitive to her pain – she does it all. She’s so strong, in a soft, gentle way. Just a really incredible example that woman don’t have to be that stereotypical “strong independent woman” to be incredibly brilliant.

Mike: At times, I was annoyed with Mike (especially when he lashes out at Maggie), but every time I had to remind myself, “Hey, this kid’s barely 16 years old. This is actually a good representation of this age.” He lacks a certain control to himself, with quite a temper, but inside he’s hurting so much that I understand his rage and lashing out. After losing his dad, possibly losing Maggie, and having to face his biological mom, all in one week, it’s not hard at all to forgive him from his pendulum emotions. Underneath it all, though, he’s a very intelligent and wise character, and has a semblance of a good head on his shoulders after he tempers his rage.

Other Characters: This was where it fell a bit flat for me. Mike’s dad wasn’t developed enough for me to care about his death – he was more of a plot point so that we can see Mike’s grief and subsequent struggle. There was a character named Jayd as well, and I don’t know a single thing about him, other than he just got back and is on parole. No age, no history – nothing. It was really annoying at times because obviously he’s a big part of Mike’s life but I just don’t know why. And then there’s Rachel, Mike’s girlfriend. A really, really unhealthy version of a girlfriend. She’s clingy, manipulative, and whines all the time. Also, really insensitive to Mike after his dad’s death. Come on, girl. Represent your gender a bit more appropriately.
Concept and Plot

Concept: This kind of reminds me of the issues Jodi Picoult tackles in her novels. Just because someone shares your DNA, does that give them more power over you, even if they abandoned you for ten years? It’s finding that balance between what is right by the law and what is right by your morals and ethics.

Plot: A bit rushed at first. It was like, one day dad’s here, and then he’s dead. But then, that’s how it happens, doesn’t it? No one can foreshadow a death by a drunk driver – no one sees that coming and says “I can be prepared.” That person is here one second and gone the next. Go to bed fine, wake up and your dad is dead. Just like that. It’s a sobering realization, but nevertheless I applaud Justesen for highlighting this fact. The rest of the plot is focused one on single week, and it feels like a whirlwind. So much pain and grief is highlighted, and it’s very well done without being all thrown at you at once. Writing StyleJustesen pulled me into this story with her pure description of grief and pain after loss. My heart ached while reading about Mike’s struggles, from his panic attacks and lack of appetite to his blinding rage at his bio-mom. I just wanted to scoop him up and tell him that everything’s going to be okay and he can make it because I believe in him and he just has to make it through this court date.

Last ThoughtsDespite my problems with the book, ultimately the good outweighed the bad in this situation. I wasn’t in love, but I was definitely in like. It was a touching story, posing a difficult question about the weight of blood vs. water. So, yes, I recommend it, if you want to tug at your heartstrings!

My Final Rating: 

Four Stars

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