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“Nothing ruined life more than regret,” Lor. –The Vanishing Deep      

The Vanishing Deep

by Astrid Scholte 
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Seventeen-year-old Tempe was born into a world of water. When the Great Waves destroyed her planet five hundred years ago, its people had to learn to survive living on the water. However, the ruins of the cities lay below. Tempe dives daily, scavenging the ruins of a bygone era, searching for anything of value to trade for Notes. It isn’t food or clothing that she wants to buy, but her dead sister’s life.

For a price, the research facility on the island of Palindromena will revive the dearly departed for twenty-four hours before returning them to death. It isn’t a heartfelt reunion that Tempe is after; she wants answers. Elysea died keeping a terrible secret, one that has ignited an unquenchable fury in Tempe. Tempe knows that her beloved sister was responsible for the death of their parents; now she wants to know why.

But once revived, Elysea has other plans. She doesn’t want to spend her last day in a cold room accounting for a crime she insists she didn’t commit. Instead, Elysea wants her freedom and a final glimpse at the life that was stolen from her. She persuades Tempe to break her out of the facility, and they embark on a dangerous journey to discover the truth about their parents’ death. Every step of the way they are pursued by Lor, a Palindromena employee desperate to find them before Elysea’s twenty-four hours are up—and before the secret behind the revival process and the true cost of restored life is revealed.

The Vanishing Deep takes the reader on a trip into the future, where people live on metal structures on the ocean. The Old World was destroyed due to unsustainable practices because people “always [are] wanting more than we have.” Scholte’s world-building is detailed, realistic, and beautiful. Even though the story shows the importance of caring for the earth, the message is integrated into the story and never feels like a lecture.

The story jumps back and forth between Tempe’s and Lor’s points of view, which helps build suspense. Both characters are suffering from grief, but they each react to the loss of a loved one in different ways. Lor hides from the world and forces himself to pay penance to his friend’s death. On the other hand, Tempe is so shrouded in anger that she hasn’t grieved for her lost sister. By the end of the story, both Lor and Tempe realize they need to deal with their grief. Tempe realizes “anger had been my anchor. It had tethered me to the darkness in the world, to the things I couldn’t control. I had hidden from my grief. It was easier that way. But it wasn’t healthy.”

The Vanishing Deep is a suspenseful story that propels readers into an imaginative world that makes one consider questions about death. Tempe and Lor’s different perspectives show how grief can overtake someone’s life in unexpected ways. The conclusion contains several surprises but also leaves many unanswered questions. Despite this, readers will enjoy the journey through the New World, where people can resurrect a loved one. The story leaves off on a positive note by reinforcing the need for people to go through the grieving process, which includes learning to fully live their lives even though they’ve suffered an incredible loss.

Sexual Content

  • Lor and Tempe kiss. Tempe’s “skin blistered at the touch of him. I wasn’t sure who had ignited who. He tasted like the sea, smoke, and brine. His hand snaked up and into my hair. I breathed him in between kisses, needing him, needing this, needing life.”


  • When Tempe was younger, kids “would circle me, throw things in my hair and chant, water witch, water witch, water witch, as they ran around me. They wanted protection from the Gods below. Protection from me.”
  • When Tempe and her sister escape Palindromena, Lor goes after them. When Elysea sees him, she yells, “He’s already killed me once! Don’t let him do it again!” The barkeeper “tossed the knife at [Lor]. . . The knife dug into the counter, scratching [Lor’s] arm and pinning [Lor’s] shirt to the wood.” Lor is uninjured.
  • When Lor boards Tempe’s boat, she “Dove toward him, my arms connecting around his middle. . . He slipped on the wet metal hull, and we fell to the deck. . .He had hit his head against the mast when he fell. He was out cold.” Tempe ties Lor to the boat.
  • Lor and his best friend, Calen, were climbing a cliff when they fell into the sea. Lor died and his mother “couldn’t say goodbye to her son, so she killed Calen so Lor could live on.”
  • Tempe, Elysea, and another boy go to an underwater temple where they are ambushed. “Something silver shot past [Tempe’s] shoulder, tearing through my diving skin and into my flesh. I gasped in pain.”
  • While in the temple, a rebel named Qera grabs Tempe. Qera “grabbed my leg and twisted the flipper off. . . I reached for Qera’s wrist. She elbowed me in the face, attempting to tear my dome loose.” The fight is described over five pages. No one is seriously injured.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • After diving, Tempe takes a “recompression pill to neutralize the bubbles that were currently forming in my muscles and bloodstream.”
  • When Tempe goes on land, she is given “two opaque pills” to help with the stationary sickness.
  • There is the occasional mention of drinking rager—“a spirit made from fermented seaweed that hit you in the face like the odor of a month-dead familfish.”
  • A man goes to the bar and asks for a rager. He says, “Thanks, man. Liquid courage.”
  • While at a celebration, Lor drinks rager. Lor takes “a tentative sip. The fermented drink burned my tongue and made my eyes water.” Lor gets drunk.
  • The day before Tempe’s birthday, she goes to a bar with her friend. The worker gives Tempe’s friend “a shot of rager and a half a shot for me.”


  • Profanity is used occasionally. Profanity includes ass, bastard, crap, damn, piss, and shit.
  • “Gods below” and “Gods” are both used as an exclamation occasionally.
  • Fuck is used once.


  • Scientists found a way to bring people back to life for 24 hours. Some thought “bringing back the dead was against the Gods’ wishes. Both Old and New.”
  • When a person is revived, he or she is “intrinsically linked through the echolink, tethering to my heartbeat. If she died, I would too.”


Spiritual Content

  • The New Gods and the Old Gods are mentioned, but no specific information is given about them.
  • Several times, Tempe prays to the Gods below. For example, she drops stones into the ocean “saying a prayer to the Gods below who took souls from boats in a storm and the air from the lungs of divers.”
  • In the past, “the Old World believed in the Gods above and followed the stars to journey across the land.”
  • Some people believe the “Old Gods had turned away from us and our selfishness.”
  • Tempe “doesn’t believe in luck; I believe in the Gods below and what they determined for my future. Why they had chosen to take my parents and my sister, I wasn’t sure.”
  • When Tempe goes to Palindromena, someone says, “Praise the Gods below for protecting our island.”
  • Tempe asks her sister about death, but her sister doesn’t remember anything. “Those who believed in the Gods below said you would be reunited with your loved ones in a realm beneath the sea. A realm where you could breathe underwater. And those who believed in the Old Gods said you would go to a place in the sky.”
  • When Tempe’s sister suddenly becomes unconscious, Tempe prays. “In all the times I’d prayed to the Gods below, they’d never listened. I begged that they would this time. Just this once.”
  • Lor wants to save Elysea’s life, but he’s not sure how. “For the first time in my life, I whispered words of prayer to the Gods below, not knowing if they existed, listened or cared. But wasn’t that how everyone prayed? With faith that they weren’t alone and no evidence to prove it?”




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“Nothing ruined life more than regret,” Lor. –The Vanishing Deep      

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