DiscoverMiddle Grade

The Deep End of Life

By

Loved it! 😍

Clever writing and a poignant metaphor make this concise, middle grade story one that young readers will enjoy.

Eleven-year-old Marley is a spunky, spirited girl who is struggling with the pain of her parents’ divorce two years earlier. In an attempt to channel her anxiety and anger, Marley’s parents enroll her in after-school swimming at the nearby Jefferson Street Pool. Marley’s older sister Violet was a star swimmer, but Marley is far from comfortable in the water. To make matters worse, Marley feels the pull of the deep end as though a shark is hiding in its depths, waiting to ambush her when she least expects it. As her world falls apart around her, Marley gets pulled beneath the surface of her life and she must make dramatic strides to be able to breathe again.


The writing in this story is well-crafted, pulling readers immediately into Marley’s unique and memorable personality. Despite Marley’s difficulty managing her situation, she often makes witty comments and statements that endear readers to her. She observes the world through the pain she feels, wondering if she will ever be good enough to earn the affection she craves so much. Through a balanced blend of emotion and humor, this story examines both the psychological challenges young people face and their resilience in moving through those challenges.


Marley’s experience as the youngest child of divorced parents is one that is common, especially as her parents did not detail the reasons behind their separation. In the absence of tangible information, Marley fills in the blanks, believing herself to be the primary catalyst. Her anger and fear become difficult to manage, causing her to lash out at others and behave in ways she otherwise would not. Therapy is a necessary avenue for Marley, and though she is initially skeptical, she discovers that with the right person, her sessions can be more beneficial than she expected.


The murky, deep end of the community pool is an apt and poignant metaphor for the myriad unknowns obscuring Marley’s life. It becomes another character in the story, one that lurks behind many of the behaviors of Marley and her companions. Young readers will empathize with many of Marley’s feelings, increasing their understanding and management of bullying, its causes, and its repercussions. Through quality writing and a concise plot, Marley’s story is one that will help middle grade readers grow both their own internal confidence and their empathy toward others.

Reviewed by

I review books for kids, tweens, and teens and blog about them on my website. To date, I have over 500 published reviews. Sign up for my monthly newsletter at www.maryrlanni.com to get recommendations straight to your inbox! I primarily write reviews, but will create video reviews upon request.

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About the author

Benjamin K. Hewett lives in Houston and translates English into English for NASA. He is a Vera Hinckley Mayhew Award recipient and winner of the 2019 Marburg Award in Germany. In addition to writing, Ben enjoys spending time with his three kids, playing jazz piano, and juggling fire. view profile

Published on February 20, 2021

Published by Mahogany Bard Press

40000 words

Genre: Middle Grade

Reviewed by