Kyle is a swaggering bully; Lenny strives to be invisible.
Kyle has been left alone in the world; Lenny is the world’s biggest loner.
When Kyle saves Lenny from drowning, their lives will never be the same.
After a brutal encounter with school bullies, Lenny swims out into the ocean, determined to let the current whisk him away. Next thing he knows the meanest kid in town is pulling him from the waves, promising to be his Dead Sea, and to never let him sink.
All Kyle wants is to get out of beach cleanup, is that too much to ask? So he goes for a swim, only to come upon the most epic “nobody” in the senior class drowning in a riptide. Lenny’s haunted gaze grips him, and Kyle makes the impulsive decision to save his life or die trying. And through this ordeal, Kyle and Lenny are transformed.
Kyle’s heroic act sets him on the straight and narrow, and he opens his heart to the young man he dragged from the ocean. Lenny changes too but is still unable to reveal the truth of his pain. While drowning in a sea of secrets, the reformed bully and wary victim fall in love. But staying afloat in the Dead Sea is not as simple as it seems.
Trigger warning: one character attempts unsuccessfully to die by suicide as is noted in the blurb, further discussion of death by suicide
The story follows Lenny, a seventeen-year-old talented creative kid who loves to sew and dress up in costumes. After an upsetting event during which all of his secrets risk exposure, Lenny, unable to face the potential humiliation, decides to walk into the ocean and never return. Caught in a riptide, he begins to drown but is rescued by the unlikeliest of heroes: one of the school’s biggest and meanest bullies, Kyle.
It was so much fun watching Kyle transform from a bully into a caring individual who continues not only to surprise those around him but surprise himself as well. In Kyle and Lenny, we have two teenagers who have gone through difficult times but have dealt with them in different ways: Lenny by becoming nearly invisible (his nickname at school is “Zip-Lip” because he hardly ever even talks) and Kyle hiding behind his bullying facade and tough attitude. So in this way, both boys hid from the world in their own way.
I loved seeing the transformation as both boys evolved into something more, with each discovering themselves and each other in the process. I enjoyed watching their connection strengthen as the days passed, and they both started changing, both defying society’s expectations and overcoming their personal trauma. It was heartwarming how one of the school’s most terrifying individuals became a hero and how this affected everyone around them — but most of all, himself and Lenny. Mia Kerick really seems to understand the teenage soul—the longing, the self-awareness, the challenges, the fear, and the confusion.
There is real depth to this story as it delves into some pretty serious themes such as suicide, bullying, depression, parental rejection, abandonment, survival, homophobia, and fitting in, all of which the author handled expertly and compassionately. The author created here two characters that I couldn’t help but care deeply for. They were well-fleshed out with a satisfying character arc. Though the book is layered with complexities of identity and societal expectations, ultimately, Dead Sea ends being a beautifully written story about friendship, redemption, and first love.