Both Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs are seasoned writers, and that shows in their newest release, “The Darkdeep.” The story is Stephen King for kids, and the horror is all too imaginable, thanks to the well-written descriptions by both authors of the horrors that main character Nico and his friends face in a haunted cove in the Pacific northwest.
When a bully throws Nico’s hand-built quadcopter over the edge of a cliff, he’s determined to recover it even if that means trekking into the scary, supposedly haunted area of Still Cove. When Nico falls off the cliff, his friends rush to rescue him. Even Opal, who had been friends with Nico when they were kids and now hangs with the bully, runs to help save Nico.
What they find at the bottom of the cliff changes their lives. The hidden, unknown island in the middle of the cove houses a pond, and in the middle of the pond is a houseboat, and in the middle of the houseboat (actually, at the bottom of the houseboat) is an opening into the black water of the pond that is even creepier than every creepy thing inside the houseboat.
After diving through the hole in the houseboat and emerging in the pond, figments of the kids’ imaginations begin to appear. But what starts off as cute and fun soon becomes scary and dangerous.
The authors do a great job making a horror story that has a moral and which thoughtfully addresses many teenage issues like bullying, peer pressure, loyalty, friendship, and where family fits into it all. The characters, especially Nico and Opal, from whose perspective the story is told in alternating chapters, are well created and likable. The ending will keep readers wondering about the sequel.
This is a great choice for fifth graders and middle school readers who loved Goosebumps books when they were younger.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, the publisher, for review purposes.