One Would Think the Deep

Claire Zorn

One Would Think the Deep
University of Queensland Press
30 May 2016

One Would Think the Deep

Claire Zorn

CBCA Book of the Year Award Winner (Older Readers) 2017

Sam stared at the picture of the boy about to be tipped off the edge of the world: the crushing weight of water about to pummel him. Sam knew that moment exactly, the disbelief that what was about to happen could even be possible. The intake of breath before the flood.

Sam has always had things going on in his head that no one else understands, even his mum. And now she’s dead, it’s worse than ever.

With nothing but his skateboard and a few belongings in a garbage bag, Sam goes to live with the strangers his mum cut ties with seven years ago: Aunty Lorraine and his cousins Shane and Minty.

Despite the suspicion and hostility emanating from their fibro shack, Sam reverts to his childhood habit of following Minty around and is soon surfing with Minty to cut through the static fuzz in his head. But as the days slowly meld into one another, and ghosts from the past reappear, Sam has to make the ultimate decision … will he sink or will he swim.


Seventeen-year-old Sam’s mum has died. With no father in the picture and nowhere else to go, the Department of Child Services have directed him to call his estranged Aunty Lorraine, the only relative he has a contact number for. Aunty Lorraine’s immediate reaction is to ask him if he has anyone else he can go to. When she finally does agree to come and pick him up, Sam’s life takes another sharp turn.

Sam wants to move on as much as he wants to go back to how things were; he struggles with his anger, not wanting to look weak by showing his grief. Luckily Sam has Minty, his cousin. Minty is an indomitably cheerful kid who also had a bit of a rough start in life. Minty finds solace, control and, ultimately, freedom on his board in the surf. On Sam’s first day at his Aunty’s house, Minty does his best to help Sam heal, the only way he knows how – by lending Sam a board and teaching him to surf.

In ways that surprise him, Sam finds he connects and relates to the surf. He too experiences huge swells of grief, violent crashing waves of anger and, occasionally, when Jeff Buckley is playing and Sam’s new girlfriend, Gretchen, is walking by his side, he too finds a perfect calm.

Zorn has captured 1997, the year in which the story is set, perfectly. The music references, especially, help to shape and give a strong sense of the characters and their world. Zorn’s portrayal of Aunty Lorraine as the nicotine-ravaged, world-weary single mum to two teenage boys was so real that I’m sure she must exist, and that I’ve met her in my past. It is very clear why, with such talent, Claire Zorn won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for her previous novel, The Protected.

Dani Solomon

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