Kat Alexander's Reviews > Dead to You

Dead to You by Lisa McMann
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Feb 11, 2012

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bookshelves: arc, books-i-own, read-2012, reviewed, figment-review
Read on January 31, 2012 — I own a copy

Ethan was kidnapped nine years ago from his front yard, not that he remembers. Just walked right up to the black van. He was seven years old. Blake, his younger brother, remembers--thirteen now, he still holds onto the grief and anger that his brother would just go with the men in the van. Ethan only knows now, of course, now that he's back with his family, sixteen years old and having lived more than half his life with a mysterious woman named Ellen. Of course, it's not easy to slide back onto the life he would have lived--Ethan doesn't remember anything from before he was kidnapped, and tensions rise within the family as Ethan, Blake, his parents, and the "replacement child" Gracie, age six, try to fit Ethan back into the group and town as if nothing ever happened. Oh, and there's a girl, too. They used to take baths together. When they were six. Her name is Cami. Needless to say, Ethan likes her. A lot.

I had a hard time getting into this one, to tell you the truth--after reading Lisa McMann's first book, Wake, I've read three more of hers and keep waiting to hear the same staccato, fragmented style. It's present still in Dead to You, but not as strong. Less obvious, but carries the story along quickly, dramatic without seeming put-on. The book opens with the family reunion, split across two chapters, gorgeously descriptive... the next bit, not so much. It wasn't until the first f-bomb was dropped that it I felt the story settle into a rhythm, the same language and style that carried through the rest of the book, and I stopped thinking about other things (twenty lines of Ovid to translate, five hundred lines of poetry to be read to a class tomorrow afternoon) and was fully sucked into Belleville, Minnesota. (Might should have mentioned--labelled for mature audiences 14 and up.)

It's definitely a page-turner once you get into it, this one--each chapter leads into the next, and it reads quickly. Things move fast. I don't have a real sense of the timeline after finishing it, how many days elapse over the course of the novel, but the vast majority of the plot, I think, occurs over about a month. Things move fast--particularly the romantic aspect of the whole story. It's funny, because while Ethan is so quickly head-over-heels for this girl he's just met and constantly reminds us that she's beautiful for x, y, and z reasons, Cami is the one who annoys me. I like Ethan. He's easily impassioned and has a background story which is gradually revealed and personality and is somehow upfront about all the good and bad. Cami is just sort of the perfect person. She makes 150 peanut butter sandwiches for the homeless with her mother every Saturday night and has no flaws. There is no way this person exists.

Dead to You runs about 250 pages and I read it in an afternoon. The loose ends aren't all wrapped up. We don't get told who Ellen is, we don't get any of the details about this girl Tempest who Ethan hooked up with and mentions occasionally. Ethan is not interested in explaining everything he remembers about his childhood, which was great, because I wasn't really interested in reading it. It's a fantastic experiment in character development, watching perceptions of characters shift as more is revealed, because almost nobody is who Ethan assumes them to be on first sight (with the glaring exception of Cami). The concept, the plot, are vastly entertaining, and Ethan is a character I came to care about. The ending is dramatic, if a bit of an irritating cliff-hanger, particularly since I can't find any indication of a sequel coming out any time soon. Pick it up for a quick read with an intriguing premise and good writing--but prepared to be unsatisfied and wish for more.
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