Deep Blue Secret by Christie Anderson

California teen, Sadie James, thinks her life couldn’t get any better. She has great friends, an energetic mother she adores, and the beach practically in her own backyard. But her carefree life is turned upside down when she’s rescued by a mysterious and strangely familiar boy who won’t even tell her his name.

Each time the boy appears, Sadie’s unexplainable attraction to him deepens along with her need to unravel his secrets. The boy is there to protect her. But as wonderful and exciting as it might be to have an irresistible boy with crystal green eyes protecting her every move, every minute of the day…why does Sadie need one?

As Sadie finds answers, she realizes her life isn’t as perfect as she thought. Not only is she caught in a world of dangerous secret agents she never knew existed, but it turns out her true identity may be the greatest secret of all.

This book has an interesting idea behind it. A group of otherworldly agents who travel throughout the world healing the sick by means of special healing waters. Sadie is connected to healing water in a way she’s never known and certainly doesn’t understand, but she knows something isn’t right. Then a mysterious stranger—a boy from her dreams with crystal green eyes—shows up every time she’s in trouble and somehow makes things okay.

This book had a lot of potential, and I admit I was very excited to read it. The cover, the copy on the back, and the great reviews on Goodreads were all great.While it had the fairly common normal-girl-falls-for-mysterious-newcomer-boy outline, the “secret agent” aspect was intriguing and seemed to promise something new. Unfortunately, the book didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

It had some definite strong points—a few pieces of “technology” that I thought were interesting, some very true-feeling friend drama, and some nice descriptions of landscapes*, to name a few. But for the most part, I felt like this book just wasn’t finished. The background story needed flushing out, as did the characters themselves—there was very little that made Sadie Sadie, very little that distinguished her from any other teenage girl. We don’t what her interests are, what her weaknesses are—we don’t even know what her favorite subject in school is. All we know is that she thinks her life is perfect—but she gets sad for no reason, and that she’s never felt much of anything for any guy—until her mystery man shows up, and then she’s so head-over-heels in love she can’t control herself.

I have to admit, the writing was very much like stuff I scribbled in my journal at seventeen, so in one sense it was very real… but at the same time, it too felt underdone. Details are skipped over and many things are told rather than shown. The whole story seems to be happening to Sadie—instead of being an active part of the story, she lets Rayne take her by the hand and lead her down a path. Her slowness to question red flags often left me frustrated.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t particularly like this book. I wanted to. I really wanted to. I even feel badly that I’ve been asked to write a review, because I don’t want Ms. Anderson to be discouraged by what I say—I just want her to know that her book could have been better. It could have been more fleshed out, and it could have been sharpened.

Funnily enough, what I enjoyed most about the book were the things that Sadie couldn’t wait to get away from—the normal teenage things. I thought that the dialogue and the jealousies between the teens Sadie hung out with were very true to teenagers, and felt very natural. I almost wish the book had been a straight contemporary about the difficulties of high school. It would have been interesting to read a book about a teen who had bouts of depression even though she thought she had a great life—more interesting, I think, than having most of her emotions influenced by things outside her control.

But that’s just my two cents.It really does have great reviews on Goodreads.

You can buy Deep Blue Secret here, and find more about Christie Anderson at her website.

*Though I have to say, as a San Diego native I thought her version of California was sadly TV-version stereotypical, but I suppose Anderson grew up where the stereotype was the rule? My high school was nothing like a “sea of blonde,” personally. Just sayin’.

I was provided with a copy of  this book for review. It did not influence my review in any way.

Writing bumps (and successes!)

Sometimes writing feels like walking in the dark down a bumpy road. I’ve had a lot of bumps in my writing the past few months, mostly in the form of minor freak-outs that I just can’t cut it. I’ve been lucky, though, that I always have someone waiting to listen to me as I worry, and miraculously a lot of my worries have been followed immediately by a light clicking on, and my being able to see that much further of my path.

What do I mean? Well, I’ll tell you.

Firstly, I had a BIG block on Jethro… I’m talking about a month and a half’s worth of block. I knew who my bad guy was, I could see him, I just didn’t know how to get him to find out about my characters… and how can he hunt them down, if he can’t find out about them?

I avoided this block for a long time. I basically didn’t even open my manuscript because until I knew how to connect point A to point B (or more like point Q to point R, in relation to the story) I was sure I couldn’t get anywhere else. I was in California living with my sister at the time, and she basically called an intervention, worried that I wasn’t doing any writing, which I was specifically there to do. I flipped out on her pretty much, spilling all over to her about my seemingly impossible situation. Then after talking through the complexities of it to her and virtually draining myself of anything I could even think on the subject, the answer popped into my head a few days later. And it was the simplest thing in the world. So obvious, in fact, that I was really tempted to knock my head against a wall like they do in movies sometimes. (Movies? TV shows? Does anyone ever do this anymore?) (Maybe I should say, I literally wanted to headdesk.)

I had a similar freak-out on my Secret Project. I was worried that the middle wasn’t exciting enough, and there was a lot of middle. A part of me thought that this was going to have to be the story I shelved for years and years until I was “good enough” to write it. I talked to Isabelle Santiago about this one, and she assured me that what I had was good, that I already knew what I needed, just like I had before, and that this was a story that needs to be out in the public. (It’s so nice to have a friend who fangirls your WIP unabashedly.)

Starting in January I joined a critique group through Authors Incognito, a group of LDS writers (that’s writers who are LDS, not necessarily writers who write LDS books)(and yes, I’m LDS too). I’ve been having the chapters of Jethro critiqued—so far just the first chapters of Jethro, the ones which flowed like water onto the screen that I’d thought were so good. I’ve gotten them back torn up and abused, with red ink all over them… and then I had another freak-out, this time needing both my husband and Isabelle’s assurance that firstly, Jethro was good, and secondly, this is a first draft… all the little things get fixed in the editing, which is way more fun than writing. (Would you have ever believed that back when you were in school? I sure wouldn’t have.)

Part of me wanted to run into a corner and hide, and bury my poor little manuscript under a shroud of anonymity so that it would never be critiqued again. But most of me was starting to realize, yeah, these are things I need to address in my writing. I have good, gripping prose in me, I know I do… but maybe I don’t have it in my first drafts, and that’s okay, so long as it’s in there by the end.

My latest flip-out experience was also Jethro, and it was just the other night. I’d been reading a bunch of blog posts about writing the book from the right character, and even though Jethro is really an ensemble piece, suddenly I was terrified that the character I’d chosen as the “main” was wrong. And I’m talking about thinking  this nineteen and a half chapters into writing it. One of my secondary characters just sparkles so much more, and I know she has some serious demons that’ll be in her path very, very soon, and I thought maybe the character I’d picked just couldn’t hack it, couldn’t carry a full-length novel that would keep teens and adults reading.

This was maybe my biggest heart-attack yet. How could I have so misjudged? How could I have gotten it all so mixed up?

But then logic kicked in… the character I’d chosen had to be right. Considering who she was, what her personal history was, there was no way she was wrong. She was the one. The only one who could tell the story as a hero. Well, maybe one of two… but that’s a bit of a secret.

Still, this presented me with a problem. Luckily, this problem also turned out to be a solution. You see, I knew the answer to this question, too. The question being, “How to make my main character be more exciting,” or more to the point, “How to torture my main character just a bit more?” I knew because it was already in an earlier version of this story, but it was something I’d thrown out because I’d wanted to involve another character in that story arc, a character that it was vital to the plot that she be involved.

So again, I panicked a little bit. I had 1+1+1, and I needed it to equal 2, because in this case, 3 just wouldn’t cut it. 3 would be preposterous.

I ranted at my husband about this problem for a few minutes, but he was working on other things and I was talking too fast to really understand probably, anyhow. In this instance, I pulled out my trusty notepad and just started scribbling. I basically did a web-diagram, in the messiest, fastest cursive that I can claim.

And you know what? My problem worked itself out. In a way that not only was simple and logical, but that actually solved another little problem I’d had with my plot, and had me feeling like standing up and cheering for my characters, because they’d just proved to me how awesome they really could be. I jumped from that to writing almost a full scene, only stopping because it was late and I was bone-tired.

The one other bump I’ve had recently had nothing to do with writer’s block, but more with my laptop charger, which died on me unexpectedly about a week ago. Without a charger, my laptop turned into a big ole’ paperweight for a few days, and stealing time on my husband’s desktop wasn’t fully cutting it. I got my new shiny charger in the mail from Amazon the day before yesterday, though, and while I was out pretty much most of the day yesterday, I got on today to find that Jethro had actually crossed 40K while I wasn’t looking. I’m excited! Secret Project has over 55K, but not in a solid, chronological block like Jethro. I can’t say this is the longest thing I’ve ever written (I was a fanficcer, once upon a time… ssh… it’s a secret!) but it’s the longest I’ve had of a wholly original story.

Success suddenly seems a lot closer in hand than it ever has before.

(And hey, while I’m here, check out my contribution to The Hollow Tree today. We post free reads there every Friday, don’t forget!)