Title: Dead to You
Author: Lisa McMann
Technical Rating: 3/5
Enjoyment Rating: 4/5
A powerful psychological thriller with a shocking twist from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.
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…
Lisa McMann is best known for her Wake trilogy, but when I found out that she wrote a novel involving kidnapping, I had to snap it up. I love kidnapping novels, and the thrilling aspects of Dead to You drew me in. McMann knows how to engross readers with her quick paced and detailed writing, but unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to save this novel for me. McMann resorted to certain dirty author tricks in Dead to You, and I couldn’t get past them.
Dead to You is told from the perspective of Ethan, a young man who has returned to his family after being kidnapped when he was a child. However, Ethan doesn’t remember anything from before he was kidnapped. He doesn’t remember his family or friends, and sinking back into his old life is more painful for him and his family than him being kidnapped. Besides his mother, Ethan only seems to get along with his six-year-old sister since his brother and father question whether he really is their family. or just an imposter.
“We’re like South America and Africa. Like two continents that exist far away from each other, so totally different from one another, but if you push them together, if you nestle Brazil up into the armpit of Nigeria, it all fits, like they were made for each other. Like they were of the same skin. Like one broke away from the other a long time ago, but now it’s back. A puzzle, completed.”
While the plot is intriguing, and I did read page after page to find out more, I felt tricked by McMann. Since the book is from Ethan’s perspective, he presents an unreliable narrative due to his memory loss and confusion. Reading Dead to You felt like McMann was hiding secrets from the reader just to get them to read the next page, instead of contributing to the storyline. The breadth of the story was not thick enough to fill an entire novel, so the plot was strung out to accommodate a novel-length fiction. The dialogue that she gave to Ethan’s six-year-old sister was also inaccurate and I found it hard to believe that his sister was only six years old. The characters and events in Dead to You were unrealistic and incohesive. As a social worker, I found the process of Ethan being returned to his family with professionals inaccurate, and that set a tone for my entire reading experience.
But what frustrated me the most about this novel is how McMann rushed the end of the novel. The first 3/4 of the novel was slow and steady, but in the last 1/4 McMann sprang the full truth on the reader without notice or intricacy. It felt as though McMann realized that she was almost to the minimum word count for her novel and rushed to end it as fast as she could, leaving it on an abrupt cliffhanger. I generally do not like cliffhangers at the end of novels because they tend to be a cheap trick used by authors to get readers to buy more books in the series. But since Dead to You is meant to be a standalone novel, the use of a cliffhanger at the end just showed laziness. Since the characters were not given a chance to recoil after the nerve-shattering blows that McMann thrust upon them, the story is unfinished and shouldn’t have been published as is.
Lisa McMann is clearly a talented writer with her use of refined details and language, but Dead to You was not written up to her standards. I did not feel her passion in the words, and I found the story to be unfinished. Even though I was glued to the pages throughout reading the novel, I felt tricked by the ending, and that ruined the reading experience for me. However, if you don’t mind abrupt cliffhangers in novels, then you may find Dead to You pleasurable.
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