Synopsis: Ethan De Wilde was kidnapped from his front yard when he was seven years old. Nine years later he makes his way home, but his return is far from the instant happy ending his family hoped for. Instead, they’re torn apart all over again. Ethan wishes he could remember something, anything, about his old life, but his memory eludes him. And before long, he figures out why.
Is this a “must-read?: Yes
Why?: Dead to You... how do I describe Dead to You? Dead to You is captivating. Dead to You handles a complicated subject with frankness and surprising grace. It doesn’t drown everything in imagery and metaphors like most authors handling this subject tend to do. There’s a lot of language, but that just makes it more real. The ending doesn’t give you a drop of catharsis…but I think that’s the point.
Overdone Mean Girls references aside, Dead to You is, in fact, a great book more than worthy of its “teen must-read” title. The protag reminded me a lot of Holden Caulfield (in a way that works), and Ethan has more than enough reason to be angsty. In fact, the entire book is what I think The Catcher in the Rye would be like in a parallel universe where J.D. Salinger never existed (take a deep breath, this is just a metaphor) and Catcher was co-written by Laurie Halse Anderson and Joyce Carol Oates. It has the contemporary issue subject matter they both favor, and Andersonesque simplicity is tempered with the “Who knows what really happened?” feel that Oates favors; the fact that Ethan is a pretty unreliable narrator, the inexplicit ending, and the character interactions all smack of Catcher.
It’s more than a weird metaphorical blend of classic lit and other YA novels, though; Dead to You pulls no punches in terms of Ethan’s situation and the reactions of those around him. You can relate to everyone, so you’re not sure who to root for, which just makes the ending even more heart-rending. Speaking of that ending, without too many spoilers, I’ll just say that it doesn’t wrap everything up nicely, but I think this was intentional. I think that McMann was trying to say that in a situation like Ethan’s there’s no real endgame. There’s nothing even resembling an easy way out. And I can’t think of any other better way to end this story.
Next time: Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Have you read Dead to You? What did you think?
Post by dac213! Catch up on her entire series right here!