Review: Reef of Death by Paul Zindel


P.C. McPhee is in Australia to help his uncle solve an underwater mystery involving buried treasure. P.C. quickly figures out that they’re not the only ones looking for treasure — an evil geologist is determined to get her hands on it at any cost. P.C., his uncle, and the Aboriginal girl, Maruul; become ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse where the winner takes all, including the lives of the losers.

Reef of Death by Paul Zindel.  Book #5 in the Unknown Zone series.  Published June 15th 1999 by Hyperion Books (first published April 12th 1998).  177 pages.  Genre: YA horror.

I’ll be 100% honest with you… I saw the title ‘REEF OF DEATH’ and I thought, how the hell could I pass on that?? I mean, that title alone says “BUY ME NOW”.  There was no way I could say no to a book with that glorious title!  And as if the title wasn’t enough to make me buy, there is a wicked looking sea creature all over the cover.

The plot was classic.  The good guys are looking for a treasure in order to save an Aboriginal tribe.  There is a evil scientist also looking for the treasure, doing shady experiments, and killing people.  The good guys and the bad guys clash over the treasure.  And if that wasn’t crazy enough, throw in some sea monsters. YES!  The story was super fast paced, especially the last half of the book was stuffed to the gills with action.  I was intrigued by the treasure hunt and was just as wrapped up in the excitement as the main characters.

Now, I truthfully don’t read much YA.  I read R. L. Stein’s Fear Street YA WAAAAAYYYYYYY back in the day when I was in elementary / middle school in the 90s.  As an adult, I’ve read a few YA horror titles that have caught my eye here and there and then a few  urban fantasy / sci-fi titles that I was not interested in but my local book club had pick them to read (They really like that teen romance paranormal genre. Yuck.  ).  So in the last 10 years, I’ve probably read less then 10 YA books.  So, I don’t really know about the ins and outs of YA.  I was a little surprised at the gore in Reef of Death. :O  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gore, but I didn’t think that kind of stuff would be in YA, and I don’t recall a lot of gore in the YAs I’ve read in the past.  It wasn’t just that people died, but we saw entrails and organs falling out and blood everywhere.  I personally thought it was cool that the author didn’t shy away from that.  I know as a kid I would have loved it.  But then again I was a very unusual and morbid kid who grew up in New Orleans playing in cemeteries and had a real skull on the nightstand, so….  *shrug*

The only thing that kind of grated on my nerves was the main character, P.C. McPhee.   He’s 17 and apparently perfect and indestructible.  He knew everything and sometimes he just had to look at something and was able to do it or understand it.  Also, I found it super unbelievable that he was able to carry and use his laptop everywhere.  Ok, first of all, it’s a 90’s laptop, ok?  Do you know what a 90’s laptop was like? That thing is like a slab of concrete and I don’t know how much it actually weights but it feels like it’s 10 pounds of solid dead weight, alright? There is no way someone is dragging that around with them everywhere and just wiping it out willy nilly to use secretly when the villain is looking the other way and never gets noticed.  Sorry, but I don’t think so.  The sea creature is more believable then that!!


Another small annoyance with Reef of Death is that it is a little TOO heavy handed with it’s social commentary.  It felt like there were a few mini-lectures about big corporations running everything and stealing from the indigenous population.  It was not very subtle and felt a little too forced.  I don’t mind a book teaching you a lesson, but you don’t have to reach out and slap me in the face repeatedly with obvious social injustice.  Instead of just quietly working it in to the story, P.C. has mini-rants about whatever is wrong.  Instead of gently bringing our attention to a problem it felt like getting lectured by a school teacher.  Not cool.

Over all, this was an entertaining book. The main character was a little too perfect and the social commentary was a little bit forced. The treasure hunt kept me hooked though and there was plenty of action.  It’s hard to go wrong with a sea creature!



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