When Sam leaves a bedroom at a party drunk and crying, it doesn’t take long for people to start to infer what happened in the room with popular jock Carter Davis. The problem is, Carter didn’t rape her. But as more and more people hear about what supposedly happened, Sam finds it harder and harder to come forward and tell the truth.
The second title Mandy Hubbard has published under her pen name, In Too Deep succeeds where But I Love Him failed only in that this story has a slightly more plausible premise. While But I Love Him got bogged down with its stylistic approach to domestic abuse and as a result sacrificed story, character, and credibility, In Too Deep dives right into the narrative without any real thought to its characters or their motivations. This is a fast-paced, tense novel, and it will work for some readers who are more interested in the plot than anything else.
It helps that Grace creates a dilemma that is fairly believable, at least for a while. While it’s clear that what Sam is allowing to happen to Carter is wrong, readers can also understand how such a story can spiral out of control. The problem is that Grace allows it to go on for too long, and the entire thing starts to feel ridiculous. Where are the adults while this rumor spreads throughout the school? The noticeable lack of adult intervention (of any kind) feels inauthentic.
The disappearing parent syndrome isn’t the only problem in Grace’s novel. Her characters are underdeveloped and stereotypical. Every single one of them feels like an archetype. While the novel is supposed to have readers questioning the events of the novel, Grace’s treatment of her characters leaves very little room for interpretation or grey area. While Sam’s narration provides insight into her complicated (and a little trite) family situation, Carter is quickly painted as an absolute jerk, and it makes it easier for readers (and Sam) to rationalize away what is happening to him. This could have been explored more fully if Grace had allowed Carter to subvert expectations.
There is some genuine tension as the novel’s plot builds, and it will work for readers looking for a fast-paced read. This is definitely a problem novel–more of a concept than an actual book–and it’s supposed to be incendiary. It succeeds at that, at least a little, but I couldn’t help but feel very uneasy with the overall message and content.
In Too Deep by Amanda Grace. Flux: 2012. Library copy.