Book: Below the Surface (Book 3 in the Code of Silence series)
Author: Tim Shoemaker
Source: Free from publisher
Genre: YA (no romance)
Morality Rating: PG
Readability Rating: 4 stars
Target Audience: Teen boys
Buy the Book: Amazon
Below the Surface Book Summary
Cooper just wants to have a relaxing vacation with his friends- hanging out on a lake, relaxing by the water, and eating ice cream. But when the friends witness what looks like a murder their very first night on vacation, Cooper knows his summer won’t go like he planned. On top of the excitement, Cooper is plagued by a mysterious fear of the water that he just can’t seem to shake. As the children investigate the mystery, will they find the solution, or will their curiosity take them into danger? Join Cooper and his friends as they work to uncover what lies below the surface…
This book is billed as Christian teen fiction, but other than a few brief mentions of religion, church, and beliefs, the book focuses mainly on the mystery. This makes the book perfect for both Christian teens as well as suitable for non-Christian teens who do not want to read a “preachy” book. The book offers a unique look at handling fears of various types in both a religious and non-religious way. I was quite impressed by the entire book.
Plot: The basic plot is straightforward. The kids think they see a murder, but then the dead girl shows up the next day. They are not convinced however, so they continue to to investigate, which naturally, lands them into trouble. The oddest thing about this plot was that many of the “bad guys” were connected to past events and people in the story, which I found highly unlikely. It sort of reminded me of a detective show where every character is somehow connected to the CIA or a terrorist group in some way or another. These poor kids are absolutely plagued by disaster, and if I were their parents, I would never let them leave the house any more. But other than the events themselves being unbelievable, the way the kids were involved in solving the mystery was believable.
Characters: This story is definitely for boys- as a father of 3 boys (no girls) you would expect that, but there is one girl who is featured in the story. Her name is Hiro (which I thought was a boy’s name, but whatever), and she is a typical YA girl- smart, sarcastic, and violent. I found her kind of irritating, actually. She is constantly with the boys, and honestly, I am not sure if a mother of a 14-year-old girl would want her to be with teen boys so often (she appears to have no girlfriends), but it works for the story. For the most part, the boys treat her with respect, and little is mentioned about romance or sex, which is rather refreshing in a teen book.
Setting: I’m not sure exactly where the book is supposed to take place. The lake they are on is Lake Geneva, which looks like it is in Wisconsin, but since I had no idea where that was, I sort of imagined the setting to be a New England lake town- the kind where everyone visits in the summer but it is dead in the winter. Either way, it doesn’t seem to matter for the story.
Writing: I found the writing to be clear, easy-to-read, and enjoyable. I think teens would really love reading it, too. The only problem I had with the writing is that the text was tiny and close together in my edition. I think some teens might be intimidated by the way the book was put together, but that isn’t the author’s fault.
Too few books are written for teen boys these days- at least books that I would want a son of mine to read. I am happy that this series exists as an alternative to the thousands of trashy books for teens.
Who Should Read It
Teens, advanced middle-grade readers, and any adult who wants to read a clean, wholesome mystery.
Buy the book.