Title: Dead to You
Author: Lisa McMann
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages
ISBN-10: 1442403888 (Simon Pulse)
ISBN-13: 9781442403888 (Simon Pulse)
Reviewed by: Emmy
Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It’s a miracle… at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn’t going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he’d be able to put the pieces back together. But there’s something that’s keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable…
Quick & Dirty: This novel was written with a stream-of-consciousness style narrative that fails to fully deliver the suspense the story needed. This drama is not for someone looking for an easy, happy read.
Opening Sentence: There are three of them. No, four.
Reviewing this book is hard, because I’m still feeling weighed down by all the emotions it evoked. Which is good, in the sense that there’s nothing sadder than a book that can’t move its reader, but my feelings were evoked more because of the parallels I made to the real world than because of the author. Even after a few hours, I still feel like the weight of every missing child is hanging around my shoulders. It is not a good feeling.
Because the book is so short, and the plot so reliant on surprise there’s not a lot I can say about the story that isn’t in the synopsis. Ethan has no memory of leaving with Ellen at the age of seven, or any of his life before that. He tries to, but the memories just aren’t there. Everything he knows about his family he learns by finding their website about him and his case, which is when he saw his picture. Because it hurts his family when he doesn’t remember almost as much as when he does, he pretends to remember some things when asked. His lack of memory along with his relationship with his brother is the cause of most of the drama in this story. Many of the relationships between the characters are unsurprising and, at least to me, were developed in an expected way. They followed what I considered to be the logical path after Ethan’s semi-prodigal return. There are a few characters in the story that haven’t been fully developed and act like stock characters, moving the story along.
I cared about Ethan by the end of the book mostly because it was a first person narration. He wasn’t a particularly likable character, but he was pitiable, which added to the weight of the story. He went through hard times and McMann’s narrative style is authentic, holding nothing back from the reader. Sometimes the adapted stream-of-consciousness she’s written reads as contrived and forced, however, which pulled me out of the story in a number of places. However, her narrator is a smart boy, a survivor, and his strength pulls the reader into his life. McMann uses similes, which helped me as a reader understand what Ethan felt even though his abduction and return is so far outside of anything I’ve imagined.
This is a terrifying story, because abduction is a terrifying experience both for the one taken and those left at home. So is the abandonment Ethan went through during his nine years away. It sounds like a horrible nightmare and McMann has done a good job of bringing that across. However, the suspense of this book is what drives the plot. Will Ethan get his memories back? Is he suppressing them because of some abuse? What happens if he doesn’t remember? A sense of impending doom stains the story. By the time I reached the end of the book, I had waited so long for the answer that when everything comes together I didn’t even have it in me to be surprised.
The story followed the most obvious path, focusing mostly on family drama and Ethan’s small romantic subplot. There’s a sense of convenience about the story from the very beginning and unfortunately it dilutes the suspense that should have kept me gripped.
And it’s not good. It’s really not. It goes something like this.
Dad: You’re grounded for like. I have a thousand chores for you to do, including kissing Blake’s ass. No friends over. Cami, go home forever.
Me: But, Dad, he started it.
Dad: Family meeting tonight after everybody calms down. For now, you are dead to me.
FTC Advisory: Simon Pulse provided me with a copy of Dead To You. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.