REVIEW: Dead Sea by Mia Kerick

The Official Description:   Kyle is a swaggering bully; Lenny strives to be invisible.

Kyle has been left alone in the world; Lenny is the world’s biggest loner.

When Kyle saves Lenny from drowning, their lives will never be the same.

After a brutal encounter with school bullies, Lenny swims out into the ocean, determined to let the current whisk him away. Next thing he knows the meanest kid in town is pulling him from the waves, promising to be his Dead Sea, and to never let him sink.

All Kyle wants is to get out of beach cleanup, is that too much to ask? So he goes for a swim, only to come upon the most epic “nobody” in the senior class drowning in a riptide. Lenny’s haunted gaze grips him, and Kyle makes the impulsive decision to save his life or die trying. And through this ordeal, Kyle and Lenny are transformed.

Kyle’s heroic act sets him on the straight and narrow, and he opens his heart to the young man he dragged from the ocean. Lenny changes too but is still unable to reveal the truth of his pain. While drowning in a sea of secrets, the reformed bully and wary victim fall in love. But staying afloat in the Dead Sea is not as simple as it seems.

Trigger warning: one character attempts unsuccessfully to die by suicide as is noted in the blurb, further discussion of death by suicide

Just the facts: Angsty, Mature Teen/New Adult romance, lots of growth and change

Two characters who are utterly unique and opposite one another come together over a near tragedy. The friendship that binds them together is honest and tender and I loved this book. – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: I’ve only read one book by Mia Kerick before this one… and now that I find myself really having enjoyed a second title, I’m not sure why I haven’t read more! Last year I read “The Scarecrow & George C”. Of that book, I remember thinking that the characters were lost souls. Dead Sea is another great story… and the characters in this book are again lost souls. It’s the only description that I can come up with.

Lenny is being bullied at school. He’s trying to live with it, flying under the radar and hardly saying a world. The one place he can visit and be himself is a gay bar. He’s allowed in even though he’s in high school because the bartender keeps an eye on him. And let’s face it, sometimes, you just need a place where you can be yourself.

The book begins with the worst happening. The bullies from Lenny’s school come to the club and find Lenny there “dressed to express”. I loved the way Lenny eventually describes the way he “dresses to express”. It’s a lovely mash of costume, sewing, makeup, characters… he just seems to be more comfortable expressing the variety of facets to his personality through what he wears. It’s his big secret. No one but the handful of people he knows at the club know about it…that is until the night he is found by his bullies. They mock him, threaten him and take a photo. They ensure him that they will make his life even more horrendous and he had better not show up at any of the graduation activities.

Feeling over come and frightened, Lenny has a few minutes of thinking he wants everything to end and swims out into the riptide. The thing is, once he’s out there and faced with the very real possibility that he might die, he finds he wants to live. One of the bullies comes to his rescue and the two young men are set on a path that is going to change both of their lives.

I absolutely loved both of these characters. Kerick has a remarkable ability to bring characters to life that are 100% original and always surprise me. Lenny and Kyle couldn’t be more different form one another, in fact they are so different, it’s as though they are written by two different authors. I think it’s rare to find such fully formed beings in the form of a character in fiction. I’m not sure I can put my finger on what it is that makes Kerick’s characters so engaging. I think their voices are completely independent and distinguishable, they are unique and often have characteristics or challenges I’ve never even thought of, and they are oddly likeable.

There are a few themes in this book. Kyle is on a complex path towards redemption. He’s been a bully – a tough guy – for most of his life and the only family member he received any support from is gone. He feels shame for bullying Lenny and as their friendship deepens he has to confront the way he is feeling. Lenny was abandoned by his father when he was young and knows that it’s because of the “way he is”. With every day, each new struggle he has to face, he has become locked deeper and deeper within himself.

This is a beautiful story about friendship and how it can spring up in the most unlikely of places. I would recommend this to anyone happily. Please read the content warning, as the subject matter may be difficult for some readers.

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) suicidal ideation, mentions of a relative committing suicide, physically and emotionally abusive parent, abandonment by a parent, bullying, homophobia, vague death threat, characters almost drown.

Links: Goodreads

I received an ARC of Dead Sea by Mia Kerick from Gay Romance Reviews n exchange for an unbiased review.




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