Silver Vessels by Steve Orlando & Katia Vecchio

Middle-grade/Young Adult treasure hunting by the sea, with a diverse cast of leads? Sign me up!

Josh Friedman is a young teen (late middle schooler? early high school?) who’s a wee bit obsessed with finding lost treasure. When he hears that the remains of a shipwreck have been found near where his maternal grandfather lives down in Florida, he immediately tries to convince his mom to let him spend the summer there. Grandpa Matt and his husband Grandpa Ivan have long extended an invitation for Josh to come visit, and to bring friends, too, if he likes — no kid wants to be stuck with only his granddads for company, after all. Josh knows that his best friends Hope and Hunter would 100% love spending some time on the beach, and will hopefully be just as enthusiastic when he brings up the prospect of finding where the shipwrecked treasure really is.

For Josh thinks he has a significant lead on the location of the wrecks of ships once so laden with treasure that they earned the nickname Silver Vessels. A news report mentioned the discovery of worthless trinkets in the shipwreck, but Josh is convinced that these trinkets are actually clues to where the vessels still lie in hiding. Once he and his friends get down to Key West, they can start exploring in earnest.

And sure, maybe he has a little bit of an ulterior motive in getting the gang all together. But he’s not the only one with secrets, as he’ll swiftly discover. Worse, The Apex, a society of cutthroat treasure hunters, has figured out Josh’s interest in the Silver Vessels, and isn’t above using the teens to further their own ends. Will Josh, Hope and Hunter be able to figure out not only where the treasure is and what to do about it, but also how to outwit The Apex while sorting through their feelings for one another?

First, I loved the brown people representation in this book, as well as the LGBTQ+. The teens’ conversations feel messy and raw, but are ultimately led by their loyalty to and care for one another. I loved too how Matt and Ivan were able to be frank with Josh about their own family, and loled when Ivan backpedaled hard when he thought Josh wanted to have The Talk with him.

Intellectually speaking, I appreciated the science behind the kids’ discoveries. While I didn’t necessarily agree with Josh’s assertion that the first and third locations were on the upper edge of plausibility, I was absolutely fascinated by the second location and honestly loved everything about it. The only question left over was who made these places and left these clues? I’m hoping that gets addressed in a follow-up book.

Katia Vecchio’s art is terrific. The characters aren’t hyper-idealized models but just seem like regular people, tho I did laugh at the deliberate positioning of The Apex as an overgrown boy band in one of the larger panels. The colors really bring Key West to life, and while I wasn’t sure whether the first hidden location was meant to be a diorama or real at first, I quickly figured it out. Mostly, I loved the kinetic energy of her art. There were panels where I didn’t even need written sound effects to “hear” what was going on.

Overall, this was a really fun title of MG/YA adventure and self-discovery that I’m hoping gets a sequel sooner rather than later.

Silver Vessels by Steve Orlando & Katia Vecchio was published March 12 2024 by Maverick and is available from all good booksellers, including

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