Dead to You

Dead to You

3.9 74
by Lisa McMann

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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


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...

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—After being dumped in a group home, a 16-year-old boy searches for and finds his true name and family online. Ethan De Wilde was seven when he was abducted outside his home in Minnesota. His younger brother, Blake, was the only witness. Once reunited with his parents; brother; and Gracie, their "replacement child," Ethan struggles to remember anything about his life with this family and refuses to remember his time with Ellen, the woman who raised him. As Ethan adapts to a caring family and overwhelming community interest, he finds solace in a budding romantic relationship with the girl next door and a tenderly portrayed nascent bond with Gracie. Tension erupts when, spurred by complex emotions and a class project on genetics, Blake declares that his brother is a fraud. Ethan's first-person story unfolds circuitously but 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 and leaving plenty of questions unanswered.—Nicole Politi, The Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ
Publishers Weekly
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.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"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." —

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
Kirkus Reviews
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)

Product Details

Simon Pulse
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HL620L (what's this?)
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691 KB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


There are three of them. No, four.

They step off the Amtrak train into the snowy dusk, children first and adults after, and then they hesitate, clustered on the platform. Passengers behind them shove past, but the four—Blake, Gracie, Dad, Mama—just move a few more steps and stop again, look around. Their faces are an uneasy yellow in the overhead light from the station. Mama looks most anxious. She peers into the darkness under the awning where I stand, just twenty feet away, as if she knows instinctively that I am here, but no confirmation registers on her face. I am still invisible in the shadows.

Invisible, but cornered. Backed up against the station wall, next to a bench, the woman from Child Protective Services who I met this afternoon standing beside me. It’s too late to stop this now. Too late to go back, too late to run away. I press my back into the wall, feeling the tenderness of a recent bruise on my right shoulder blade. I wet my chapped lips and break into a cold sweat.

“Is that them?” the woman asks quietly.

“It’s them,” I say. And I’m sure. I feel panic welling up in my gut.

If I move, they’ll see me.

© 2012 Lisa McMann


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


Dad comes in for a group hug, and we are suddenly stepping on each other’s feet, not sure where to put our heads in the crowded space. I turn my face outward and see Blake watching. We hold each other’s gaze for several seconds, until my eyes cross from staring, and I think, for a moment, that he looks a little bit like this yellow dog I used to see hanging around the group home. He really does. I close my eyes.

The woman from CPS gently interrupts, lays a hand on my coat sleeve. I pull away from my parents. “Ethan,” she says, “I’m sorry to intrude. It seems obvious, but I need to ask a few questions.” We nod, and she looks at me. “Are these your parents?”

I’m choked up, but I say in a weird voice, “Yes, ma’am.”

She asks my parents for identification and they fumble in an attempt to show it as quickly as possible. Asks them officially, “Is this your son?”

Mama breaks down. “Yes,” she says, sobbing. “Finally. I can’t believe it. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“Please don’t be offended by the next question—I’m required to ask. Would you like a DNA test?”

They look at each other and then at me. “Absolutely not,” Mama says. “I’m positive.”

“There’s no need for that,” Dad says.

There are a few more questions and papers for them to sign, so we step out of the snow, into the building. At a closed ticket window we spread things out on the ledge, and that’s all there is. I already talked to the cops this afternoon. There are no more formalities. It’s almost like I got lost in the fishing tackle aisle of Wal-Mart for ten minutes. This your mom? This your kid? Good. Stay close now, keep a better eye out.

The woman from CPS squeezes my arm, searches my eyes, and apparently sees what she wants in them—enough to satisfy her that I am okay with all of this. She puts her hand to her chest and says, “Congratulations to all of you.” Her voice fills out, like she’s choking up. “It’s really such an amazing, joyful event when one of the lost ones makes it home again.” She smiles brightly, but her eyes glisten. I figure it must feel good to her, like they actually finished a job. To me, it just feels like nausea.

Then the woman turns businesslike. “Mr. and Mrs. De Wilde, we’ve arranged for our counselor, Dr. Cook, to talk with you all and explain what we know. The train station manager was kind enough to let us use the break room to do this. Ethan, would you like me to stay?” She ushers us to the room and opens the door.

I shake my head. “No, that’s okay.” It only gets worse the longer she stays. I can’t even remember her name, I’m so anxious. Dr. Cook is sitting inside at a round table. I talked to her this afternoon. She has six pencils stuck in the ball of hair at the back of her head—four yellows, two reds.

“All right.” The CPS woman steps in after us and introduces my family to Dr. Cook. “Good luck, Ethan,” she says. “I’ll be in touch in a day or two to see how it’s going.”

I nod.

Dr. Cook smiles at Blake. “Maybe you and your little sister can sit outside in the waiting area.”

Blake glances at Mama and scowls. Mama says, “Yes, good idea.”

They go. We sit. And Dr. Cook debriefs.

It’s a relief, it really is, to have her talk to my parents instead of me. She tells them everything I told her. Which, when you think of it, really isn’t much at all.

I have three seasons of my life that I want to forget now that I’m here: Ellen (I told them her name was Eleanor—I don’t know why), group home, and homeless. My mind wanders and my eyes roam the break room, land on the countertop. Spilled sugar. Coffee stains. A mug with a unicorn on it. For a minute I stare at it, thinking it moved, but it didn’t—I’m just tired.

The coffeepot with the orange lid means decaf. I know that from the breakfast place Ellen worked at once in a while, whenever she needed the money. The little bit of coffee left in the pot is starting to burn and I can’t look at it. The smell is sharp in my nose. The doctor says, “About two years ago, Eleanor abandoned him in Omaha at a group home.” She tells them how I ran away from there and lived at the park and around the zoo. I blow breath out of my nose to get the burned smell out. Finally I just get up and turn off the burner. Dad gives me a curious look, but I don’t care. I just don’t think having this place burn down right now would make things easier.

Dr. Cook gives Mama the business card of a psychologist who lives near us. Says we should go individually and as a family. All these details are making me twitchy.

When Dr. Cook leaves, we walk out of the break room and find Gracie hopping around the waiting area, babbling about kindergarten, and Blake sitting on the floor against the wall, staring at the ceiling.

“Well, it’s official,” Mama says with a huge smile, and hugs me again. When she finally lets go, Dad is next. Slaps me hard on the back, right near where my shoulder hurts. I hide a wince and take it like a man.

Blake stands up but doesn’t hug me. He stays back, shuffles his feet, embarrassed by absolutely everything. And the girl, the replacement child, she just stares at me.

It’s both jubilant and awkward, the five of us all wondering and staring and trying not to get caught looking. Mama apologizes for not bringing balloons. There wasn’t time to do anything, she says, and I believe her, since I just called CPS once I made it into Minnesota this morning. They really high-tailed it down here, actually. Must have. And I’m glad for that. I’m grateful. I look around the station, noticing other people for the first time, all of them busy trying to get home, I bet.

We have celebratory hot chocolate from an ancient, faded machine, waiting for the train that will take us home together, a complete family. Dad excuses himself after a minute and I watch him at the ticket counter, buying one more ticket home. My ticket. And I wonder, have they done this before? They didn’t want to waste the money in case I wasn’t me?

Everyone tries a little too hard. The small talk is strained. Gracie, who’s six according to the family website, judges me from a safe distance behind Mama, who is talking excitedly on the phone. Talking about me. I take a sip of my hot chocolate too soon, and now my tongue feels like burlap.

Blake stares at my feet. He was there when it happened—the only witness. Just two brothers drawing with chalk on the sidewalk in front of the house, innocent as can be. I wonder if he remembers it. He doesn’t say much. He just glances at me once in a while when he thinks I’m not looking.

“I can’t believe it,” Mama says over and over to me between calls. “You’re all grown up. Such a little boy, and now you’re all grown up.”

Dad’s quiet. He wipes his face with a white handkerchief that he keeps balled up in his hand.

A few times I try to ask a question, but I always change my mind right before I say anything. The words don’t sound right. What am I supposed to say? So, is it always this cold in Minnesota? Or, Hey, what have you guys been doing for the past nine years? I see you got busy replacing me.

On the train it’s even harder. We sit in two rows that face each other. I’m by the window, next to Blake. Mama and Dad sit across from us, with Gracie between them. I hold my beat-up old bag on my lap to keep it safe from the slush on the floor. It’s so difficult for me to look them in the eyes, like if I do I’m committing to something, even though I’m dying to take in their faces. To get a better picture. They are all looking at me, paying attention to me, asking me simple questions, and actually, I like that. I do. It makes me feel like something.

When there’s a lull, I rack my brains for something to say, and I remember the photos on the website. “Still the same old house?” I feel myself starting to sweat again.

Dad clears his throat. “Still the same, yep. Thirty-fifth and Maple.” He pauses. “Do you remember it?” His voice is gentle, careful.

“Some of it,” I say, careful too. I know it only from the pictures on the website, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings. “The front steps and the sidewalk and the white cement driveway, with the grass growing in the cracks. The Christmas tree in the big picture window, and a little black dog—what was his name?” I screw up my eyes, pretending to try to remember, but I already know that I don’t know the dog’s name. I see the photo of him in my head, but there are so many questions.

“Rags,” Mama says with a smile. “Rags died a couple years after . . . about six years ago. Right around when Gracie was born.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “He was a nice dog.”

Dad laughs. “You hated that dog. He always chewed on your shoes.”

“Really?” I laugh too, a little too hard. “I don’t remember that.”

A few weeks ago, at the library, I found the page—my face staring back at me. My page, with my real name—Ethan Manuel De Wilde—on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s website. I Googled my name and saw all the hits. People had been looking for me. Unreal. And then I found my family’s website. Even Grandpa and Grandma De Wilde and all the cousins and aunts and uncles post things there. Tons of pictures. Discussions about them . . . and about me. How they’ve been searching, and how they remember. Memories shared.

Things flash by the window and in my head: sleeping in doorways, the group home in Nebraska, and how I got there . . . and Ellen. . . . My throat hurts. I stare outside into the darkness, watching glowing snow and bare black trees whiz by.

“Um, so, what else do you remember, Ethan?” Blake asks after a while, still not quite looking at me. His voice is nonchalant, but I know what he’s really asking. He’s asking, Do you remember me?

© 2012 Lisa McMann

Meet the Author

Lisa McMann is the New York Times bestselling author of the middle grade dystopian fantasy series The Unwanteds, the YA paranormal Wake trilogy, and several other books for kids and teens. She lives with her family in the Phoenix area. Check out Lisa's website at, learn more about The Unwanteds Series at, and be sure to say hi on Instagram or Twitter (@Lisa_McMann), or Facebook (

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Dead to You 3.9 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 74 reviews.
JoanneLevy More than 1 year ago
What would it be like to be kidnapped as a child and then find your way back to your family almost a decade later with no memories of them or your life before? McMann explores this and the raw emotions of a teen who suffered abuse and neglect before being dumped at a group home by his so-called caretaker. DEAD TO YOU is a raw, emotional and even sexy story about a boy in turmoil, and has such vivid and heartbreaking characters that I couldn't put it down until the very end that left me completely breathless. Also, I have to say that I loved Gracie so much-probably more than I've ever loved any secondary character before. She provided some much-needed relief when the story kept ratcheting up the tension and suspense. Great job - another winner from Lisa McMann.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a fantastic book. I finished it in about an hour because it was soo good. BUT, it seems like she got bored of writing it and just stopped the ending came in a chapter and it definitely fits the "cliffhanger" definition. She needs to either make a sequel SOON or publish and ending because the end ruined the book for me. -M
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After being abducted at a young age Ethan returns to a family and a town he does not remember. To most its a miricle for his return, to others its impossible. The book was very amazing in the way the main character is very transparent and you can feels he's pain and struggle of his life under the care of his abductor who abandoned him and returning home.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was sooooooo good but it needs closure!!!!!!! There DEFINATELY needs to be a sequal!!! I loved vit though!!!!!
Kaley_T More than 1 year ago
I read this in a day. Simply couldn't put it down. BUT WHERE IS THE ENDING?!?!?!??!?!?!?! So upsetting! There better be a 2nd one!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok so i am reading thesample and i like hey this looks like a good bk. thenafter i start reading the reviews and i see a couple of reviews commenting on how the ending sucked. But being the idiot iam i decided to read the book anyway. And so i am reading it and it isreally good. It had depth, good characters, and an incredible story line. But then the auther decids to just end the bk all of a sudden just wen it was getting good. Rite in the climax of the fricking book!!!!!! So for the people who want to read it and decide to ignore the reviews just be prepared for the aweful ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the first novel of Lisa McMann's that I read. It was a quick read that I finished in one evening. However, the novel is filled with one-dimensional characters, an endless paradigm of this kid's school day and evening, and improbable events. The author showed a characteristically bad writing style as she ended the book in a hurry, leaving the reader thoroughly unsatisfied. It is understood that this book is improbable, but aside from that, the ending was silly and was a final slap in the face. I definitely will not recommend this novel to anyone nor will I read anything else by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first of Lisa McMann's books I have read, and will likely be the last. I'm all for realistic stories and surprise endings, but most of the time when an author chooses to do one or both, the reader still gets a since of closure when the book is done. Not so in this tale! Basically, the same thing happens over and over again, convincing you that it is leading somewhere, and then...just kidding! The only thing the reader is left with is a, "You've got to be joking," at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
one of the best books ive ever read! so sad and beautiful... the ending was just so heart breaking, defentally worth the money and time to read this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so emotional and i think it need a sequel because the end is a cliffhanger.
booookworm 8 months ago
Such a good book!!! If you like plot twists this is the book for you! I loved reading this book and it only took me like an hour to read because I kept wanting to find out more! It left me speechless. Beautifully written.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book I just didn't like the ending because I thought it left you on a really big cliff hanger. I really, really liked this book though. I think it should of had at least a epoilogue. I also read the Unwanteds series so I decided to read this and it was really good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book no matter what yall say. I wouldnt want anyone who has anger problems reading it. She is a great author. You just havnt found the book by her. You cant read one book of hers and hate the author. Yeah the ending wasnt good but it still made you think. It made you feel and itt kinda taught a lesson. Most people take everything for granted. Yet how would you feel if you were like him. Having no idea who this people are. Not fitting in no matter what you do? Some people have good mothers and fathers who care about them but the kids hate that. But some kids arent that lucky, they might have parents that dont care about them. Why dont yall write something and put it online? See how people thing of it. Some kids might come from abuseive familys but kids that have good homes take of this for granted
Amber_Elise More than 1 year ago
I read Wake by Lisa McMann and knew that I had to read more by this author. Dead To You was everything I expected plus a little more.  Plot: Dead To You has been on my TBR list for the longest time and I FINALLY got a chance to read it! This fast-paced mystery is told from the POV of Ethan, a boy who was abducted from his front lawn ten years ago. What starts off as a beautiful tale of reunion, expands to what happens AFTER a child has been returned home. The awkwardness of trying to find your place in a family that has tried to go on, returning to school and seeing old school friends. The novel also has a mystery regarding WHO took Ethan and for what purpose. I was engaged and managed to eat this one up in a day (it's a short read). The "conclusion" was very open-ended which was very unsettling, in a good way.  Characters: The mystery is told through Ethan's POV which brings the reader even closer to the mystery. Ethan seems so broken and vulnerable given his past experience and I sympathized with him until the very end. Since Ethan is a teenage boy with hormone, he pretty much falls victim to insta-lust with the first female character he meets and they go on to have a fast-paced relationship. Normally, this would bother me, but since everything else in this novel was fast-paced, it was only natural that the "lust story" be fast paced as well. World Building: There isn't much to the world building in Dead To You. The story goes from home, to school, to the park, to home again. The feeling was your average small-town USA with Ethan being the resident outsider.  Short N Sweet: Dead To You is a book-clutching romance that will tug at your heart and keep you guessing until the very end. I recommend it for all fans of the mystery genre! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was good until the end. Left too many questions and practically flipped off the reader. Wish I could get my money back
Iveth More than 1 year ago
Words can't describe this book, its a MUST read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really got on to the book with the emotional twists and turns. I loved the ending i just wished she would make a second one so we could see what happened to the character i came to love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I checked it out from my library i would have been disapointed if i'd payed for it. The ending was lacking and i was hoping there would be a sequel to resolve things. I mean wouldn't the police tht showed up in the end have known tht the family brought "ethan" home? Hello it was all over the news! So for them to show up and drop a bomb like tht seemed highly unlikely. That was the only stupid part really. The missing kid case for ethan would have been closed, police updated, so the ending had no logical basis.