Going Out With a (Paranormal) Bang: Kelly Reviews “Sliding Beneath the Surface” by Doug Dillon

Sliding Beneath the Surface by Doug Dillon (Submission)
Genre: Young Adult paranormal adventure
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary: Just as Jeff Golden is about to start classes at St. Augustine High, he finds himself up to his eyeballs in paranormal experiences. Scared out of his wits, he relies on his friend Carla Rodrigues, and Lobo, an old Native American shaman, for help. Despite this guidance, things get even worse, making Jeff realize he is in danger of losing his sanity and even his life. Finally, forces he doesn’t fully understand push him to leap headlong into the unknown in order to save himself. In doing so though, Jeff has risked something even more valuable than his own existence.

I’ve been a bad blogger! Grad school kicked my butt, but I’m back for one last hurrah in 2011. Maybe this procrastinator will learn to keep her perennial resolution of better time management in 2012. (But probably not!) We’re ending the year on a paranormal note, with Doug Dillon’s first book of The St. Augustine Trilogy.

And I do mean paranormal – this book is heavy on ghosts, Doppelgängers, universes within universes. Consistent readers of my inconsistent posts probably know I am not a believer of paranormal things, so at first I was a little skeptical of the things discussed in this book. While I know it’s fiction, I think my disbelief in the world stemmed from how quickly we jump into it. The narrative starts out with Jeff having really vivid nightmares, and Carla taking him to see Lobo, her neighbor who she says can help with this kind of “thing.” I wanted to see more of the weird things happening to Jeff in the narrative, instead of Lobo asking him and then we get a flashback. Going to a character who has all the answers before the reader can even form questions was a little off-putting.

Things definitely improved as we get to the heart of the action: Jeff is being pursued by a desperate spirit who needs his help. While it seems like this would be the start of some fun ghost helping agency plot, it actually turns out to be dangerous. The spirit doesn’t understand that it’s putting Jeff in harm’s way with its relentless pursuit. Carla, Lobo, and Jeff need to figure out who the ghost is and how they can help it before it pulls Jeff into its dimension.

As one can imagine, Jeff is a little freaked out by this. He hates Lobo at first, and constantly runs away from the problems at hand. Reading the reactions of Jeff is a great part of the story, as they are realistic. It helps ground the rest of the paranormal plot into something that a reader can connect to. I’d probably be running away from all this stuff too. At one point, Jeff realizes how his choices affect his life. It was a nice moment of self-realization and awareness, making the character grow (and in turn become more likable). As this is a YA novel, I saw this bit on choice as didactic – showing those who read it that the decisions we make matter. Even in a crazy world of ghosts and alternate dimensions, the very human act of choosing and being cognizant of this action is important.

One of the most engrossing parts of the story is the setting – St. Augustine, Florida. I knew very little about it except that it’s the oldest city in America. The history of the city is expertly woven into the plot, making me learn about a city that I had never given much thought to before. From the crowded tourist spots to the pyramids (yes, pyramids!), the city came to life on the page. As the story arc nears completion, you get to see how the history of the city and how the spirit is connected to everything in the plot. No spoilers, but you could say you get some firsthand experiences in the city’s past.

THE GOOD:
-Jeff’s reactions are very human in the face of all the paranormal
-St. Augustine shines

THE BAD:
-Story begins way too fast, needed more time to get us interested in Jeff’s story
-Lobo is a highly convenient character (has too many answers)
-Needs some more humor to lighten up the paranormal-heaviness

Overall, an interesting beginning to a trilogy. Looking forward to more adventures with Jeff and company. Pretty fast paced, good character interaction.  If you really like paranormal Young Adult, try Sliding Beneath the Surface.

Happy New Year everyone! Thanks from all the Bibliomantics for making our first year of bloggerdom such a fun and engaging time. Here’s to 2012 being filled with more Harry Potter cons, authorial adventures, and (of course) more books!

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