Deep Sea

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Deep Sea Book Poster Image
Tender summer tale is 3rd in saga of Jewish girl in WWII.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers learn about the Holocaust and World War II and what happened to Jewish children and families in Europe. 

Positive Messages

Though Stephie's circumstances are extreme, this is basically a story about Stephie's coming of age and her learning to accept that life changes -- and not always the way in which we want. She learns not be afraid of life, especially when she has loved ones by her side.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stephie tries to always do the right thing, sacrificing her summer to study, looking after her headstrong little sister, and so on. She is a loyal friend and a loyal daughter who writes to her parents faithfully, organizes packages for them, and tries to get them aid from her church. She also continues to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

Violence

Stephie's parents are in a concentration camp. A girl tells Stephie that her brother was shot; she also tells her that some camps are death camps and have lethal gas. Stephie's foster father worries about hitting a mine while fishing. Men are found dead in a submarine after they hit a mine. Germans shoot other boats down. Stephie slaps her sister in anger. Her foster parents lost a child before she came to live with them. A major character discovers her mother's dead and learns that her father has been transported to a worse camp.

Sex

Stephie recounts her kiss with a former crush. She kisses another boy, who quickly gets handsy with her, pushing her beyond what she wants to do. She overhears her friend having sex in the next room. A 16-year-old girl is pressured into taking racy photos and into having sex with the photographer. A teen girl gets pregnant. Adult women skinny-dip together.

Language

A boy calls Stephie a "Jewish slut" and tells her to "go to hell." An angry shopkeeper calls Stephie's younger sister a "little Jew brat." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Stephie takes a sip of alcohol when she and Vera are with some boys; the boys drink more than one drink. Stephie goes to a bar to find a girl she knows who works there; a man there asks if he can buy her a beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Annika Thor's Deep Sea is the third in a series (following A Faraway Island and The Lily Pond) about Stephie, a Jewish girl living in Sweden during World War II while her parents are in a concentration camp. A girl she knows tells her that some Jews are sent to death camps where lethal gas is used. Stephie's foster father worries about hitting a mine while fishing. Men are found dead in a submarine after they hit a mine. Germans shoot other boats down. A major character discovers her mother is dead and learns that her father has been transported to a worse camp. Stephie kisses a boy, who quickly gets overly physical with her, pushing her beyond what she wants to do. She overhears her friend having sex in the next room. A 16-year-old girl is pressured into taking racy photos and into having sex with the photographer. A teen girl gets pregnant. A boy calls Stephie a "Jewish slut," telling her to "go to hell"; a shopkeeper calls Stephie's younger sister a "little Jew brat." Stephie takes a sip of alcohol when she and Vera are with some boys; the boys drink more than one drink. Parents and teachers can use Deep Sea and the other series installments to talk about the Holocaust and World War II and what happened to Jewish children and families in Europe. 

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What's the story?

In DEEP SEA, 15-year-old Stephie is about to finish primary school. Her parents are in a concentration camp, and she splits her time between boarding with a big, struggling but loving family in town and spending some weekends on the island where her Swedish foster parents and little sister live. When she returns to the island for the summer, things aren't perfect, despite a rather idyllic setting: She must study so she can pass exams that allow her to continue her education; a friend gets pregnant; her little sister is acting wild and hateful; and she worries about her parents, whose situation continues to worsen. Through it all, Stephie must learn to grow up and speak up for the things she wants, although she know that things might not work out exactly as she wants them to.

Is it any good?

Even readers who have not read the other two installments in this compelling series will have no trouble following Stephie's story here. Author Annika Thor mixes in details many teens face growing up -- fighting with siblings, helping friends through tough situations, figuring out how to pay for school -- with Stephie's stressful family situation, being separated from her parents during the Holocaust.

Readers will definitely learn a lot about what it was like to be a Jewish child refugee during World War II, but they also will find a tender coming-of-age story and a strong, smart, loving protagonist who's easy to root for.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the historical elements in Deep Sea. What do you know about what happened to Jewish children in Europe when the Nazis were in power?

  • Why do you think the author chose to call this book Deep Sea? How does the setting reflect Stephie's story?

  • Did you know that this is the third book in a series that began with A Faraway Island? Why do you think the author continues to return to these characters?

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