This intriguing but slight character study is built around the first-person account of a teenager returning to his family nine years after strangers lured him into the backseat of a car and drove away. It’s emotionally rich territory, but the setup is highly improbable. Authorities reunite 16-year-old Ethan De Wilde with his family mere hours after he makes his claim, forgoing background and DNA checks. Ethan is enrolled in school the following week without placement testing or counseling. Presumably, McMann (Cryer’s Cross) has confirmed that such casual handling of a victimized family is possible, but the impression remains that the unlikely scenario has been created to suit her plot twists. Ethan’s voice is convincing, even compelling at times, but too many opportunities arise over the course of the novel for readers to notice what McMann is not letting Ethan say. In a work of short fiction, these elements could have succeeded or been ignored. As is, though, the ending feels a bit deceptive. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“ McMann’s narrative is layered and emotional, with constant questions about family dynamics, identity and reconciliation. While an amnesia-based plot risks a quick foray into formula, this resists, balancing the fractured nature of Ethan’s recollections nicely with the character's development. The sibling rivalry builds secondary tension and suspense.”
"The bitter cold of a Minnesota winter serves as both metaphor and backdrop for a riveting read that is like the dark side of Caroline B. Cooney’s The Face on the Milk Carton. A realistic but shocking ending makes this an excellent choice for book discussion, and the simple sentence structure and complex content will appeal to reluctant readers." Booklist
"McMann's gripping new novel...will leave readers burning for closure long after its chilling ending.... [Her] succinct first-person narrative skillfully carries the authenticity of a teenage boy, his fractured memory and reintegration into a family who expects much from him, despite his scarring childhood. Her exploration of an abductee psyche is both illuminating and unsettling and is realistically portrayed... With a disturbing and raw ending, Dead to You is unforgettable." Adam Silvera, Books of Wonder
"The dynamics are credible and compelling, and Ethan’s challenge in negotiating the complicated territory will ring true..." BCCB
"Ethan’s first-person story...successfully explores the emotional devastation on those closest to an abducted child and a child’s ability to cope with trauma. The long-awaited but abrupt conclusion to the story’s central mystery is dramatic, packing an emotional punch." School Library Journal
"Author Lisa McMann has written strong suspense fiction for teens with powerful, likable characters, and DEAD TO YOU is no exception. She includes many surprise twists in this engrossing page turner while creating a layered situation where it’s possible to sympathize with many points of view." teenreads.com
VOYA - Blake Norby
Ethan De Wilde is sixteen and returning home after being abducted from his front yard when he was seven years old. Ethan is welcomed back into his family by his parents, but his younger brother, Blake, and sister, Gracie, who he dubs "the replacement child" because she was born after he was taken, are more timid and suspicious of him. He finds himself feeling like an outsider in his home and at school as he tries to fit in and flirt with his childhood sweetheart. The hardest part is not being able to remember his past before he was taken by Ellen, and he must persevere to learn who his family is and who he is, even though the answer is devastating. McMann combines psychology and drama in this heart-wrenching story of a lost boy trying to find his way home. Ethan's voice is completely believable as a teenage boy searching for where he fits in. The reader is truly able to appreciate his inner conflict of accepting his new role as a son and brother while still feeling devoted to his kidnapper. This is a story-driven book with a compelling plot that will keep readers turning the pages for more. A broad young adult audience will find the story compelling and relate to Ethan's feelings of being an outsider, and fans of McMann's Wake trilogy will not be disappointed in her latest novel. This book will be a provocative addition to any teen library. Reviewer: Blake Norby
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Seven-year-old Ethan was abducted from his front yard while playing with his little brother. Now he's 16 and miraculously returns to his family. He can recall very little about his life before the abduction, and struggles to transition back into a "normal" family routine. He has to learn how to live with a family he doesn't know and is faced with interviews from the press, meeting relatives he can't remember, and the angst of going back to school. When his brother is assigned a school project on genetics, a difference between them is revealed and suspicions arise about Ethan's heritage. A romance with Cami, Ethan's best friend from before the abduction, offers additional appeal for teens. Realistic and at times raw, Lisa McMann's novel (Simon Pulse, 2012) sheds some light on a topic too often in the news today. Aaron Tveit provides a believable performance, drawing listeners into this suspenseful story and its shocking conclusion.—Lyn Gebhard, Sparta Public Library, NJ
Nine years have passed since Ethan Manuel de Wilde stepped into a stranger's car and disappeared. Now 16 and restored to his family, Ethan begins to settle down into this new life. His brother only vaguely remembers the day of the abduction, and his parents had a new child shortly after he vanished. There are some gaps in his memory, of course, but Ethan reconnects with his childhood best friend and new crush, Cami, and adapts to school. But when his younger brother Blake starts obsessing over Ethan's flawed memories, Ethan's facade of normality cracks, and he starts to look for a way out. McMann's narrative is layered and emotional, with constant questions about family dynamics, identity and reconciliation. While an amnesia-based plot risks a quick foray into formula, this resists, balancing the fractured nature of Ethan's recollections nicely with the character's development. The sibling rivalry builds secondary tension and suspense, especially as more and more gaps appear in Ethan's anecdotes. While the romance between Ethan and Cami is a bit forced, the love between Ethan and his little sister Gracie is genuinely touching. An updated abduction novel for a generation that has never seen a missing child's face on a milk carton. (Suspense. 13 & up)
Read an Excerpt
I take a deep breath, hold it, and force myself to step out from under the awning into the yellow light. Walk toward them. Mama sees me, and her mittened hand clutches her coat where it opens at her neck. As I approach, I can see her eyes shining above deep gray semicircles, and I can tell she’s not sure—I’m not seven anymore. Her lips part and I imagine she gasps a bit. Then Dad, Blake, and finally Gracie, the replacement child, stare with doubting eyes, taking me in.
I open my mouth to say something, but I don’t know what to say. It’s almost like the cold sweat in the small of my back, in my armpits, freezes me in place.
Mama takes Dad’s arm and they stumble over to me while the two children hang back. And then they’re right in front of me, and I’m looking into Mama’s eyes.
“Ethan?” she says within a visible exhaled breath that envelopes me, then dissipates. She touches my hair, my cheek. Her breath smells like spearmint, and her eyes fill up with tears. Her skin is darker, and she’s rounder, shorter than I expected. A lot shorter than me. I stand almost even with my dad, which feels right. Like I belong with this group of people.
I’m surprised to find tears welling in my own eyes. I haven’t cried in a while, but it feels good to be with them. All at once, I feel wanted.
“It’s really you,” she says, wonder in her voice. She throws herself at me, sobs into my neck, and I close my eyes and hold her and let out a breath.
“Mama,” I whisper into her soft hair. I am at once sixteen, my actual age, and seven, the age they remember me. We are long-lost souls, a mother reuniting with her semi-prodigal son. It is the end of one story and the beginning of the next.
Being near her makes my teeth stop chattering.
© 2012 Lisa McMann