Beyond the Reef Summary
In many ways, Strasser's novel is particularly aimed at the interests of male teen-age readers. At first glance the plot seems to be a mere adventure story: Chris, the protagonist, and his father, a former high school teacher, set out to hunt for treasure in the waters near Key West, Florida, which should take several years. The treasure they are searching for supposedly consists of huge amounts of gold and silver on a sunken Spanish galleon. The adventurous elements of the book are enhanced furthermore by the fact that father and son have to face dangerous and frightening situations while scuba diving for the treasure in the ocean.
One reason why this book will especially appeal to boys derives from the special relationship between Chris and his father. This relationship overshadows all other interactions between the novel's characters, including Chris's relationship with his mother. When his parents get a separation—and despite the fact that he misses his mother very much—he stays with his father and helps him to overcome his nervous breakdown. What teen-age readers will appreciate here in particular is the emotional strength and understanding of Chris's behavior. In this part of his novel Strasser reveals in a very impressive way the weaknesses of adults and the potential strengths of adolescents in handling "adult" problems.
Strasser's novel also presents a love relationship which is at no point superficial or sensational. Chris and Shannon Horn who attend the same school in Key West gradually develop an honest relationship based on friendship and respect rather than on sexual attraction. Shannon is convincingly depicted as an equal partner to Chris, both in physical and mental strength. In this way the author creates a male-female relationship between adolescents which emphasizes the importance of character and personality rather than mere physical or sexual appearance. Thus, Strasser encourages the young adult reader to reflect about his or her own experience and to examine his or her understanding of the values which he or she hold to be relevant for a meaningful relation between both sexes.