Review: Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Dead to You - Lisa McMann
She laughs, like she thinks I’m joking. I like that. It makes me think that maybe I am, too. Like maybe I really can handle it.

What is wrong with me? Why do I like this? I shouldn't, at least I shouldn't if I know myself.

After reading and loathing Wake I put this one off for a while. What didn't work for me mostly in Wake was the writing. It did nothing for me. In Dead to You it works. And it works brilliantly. With Ethan telling us the story of his return home after being abducted at 7, in present tense and first person narration – which I hate – there's something raw in his perception of what happens around him. It drew me in, took a grip, and touched me. So McMann's writing did much more for me in this novel than it did in Wake.

Then there's that second thing: the rawness. Normally I dislike short chapters, but in this, it works. The to the point scenes, the impacts they make, the simplicity. That's what it comes down to, really, for me. The simplicity of it all. Because the story isn't new, the characters have been done before, and the plot has been done before. Somehow though, it speaks to me when it shouldn't. Ethan's return home is full of contradicting emotions from all family members. His parents' relief of having him home again. Blake's suspiciousness toward his older brother. And Gracie, the "replacement child", with the innocence only a six year old can muster. And Ethan, of course, trying to fit into a world of a new/old family, finding new friends, and that not so simple thing called high school when he's lost most memories of his life before the abduction.

And I feel bad that I don’t remember them—like I didn’t care enough or something, you know?

And even when this story's mostly about building up to the grand finale, it's predictable. Another thing I don't like when reading. But, oh my, I did like this. Despite all the issues I should have with this, I like it. Because McMann has taken a not completely original plot and, yet, made it her own. It's the small things, I think, that makes this novel work. While the ending is abrupt and I would've loved more of the story, that's something I refuse to lower my rating for. After all, I enjoyed this book like few others I've done lately. I will leave this novel loving it, but silently hoping for a follow up. I'd love to see the rest of Ethan's history after his turbulent chapter that is Dead to You.

I am at once sixteen, my actual age, and seven, the age they remember me.