When Ethan was 7 years old, he was abducted from the street in front of his house. His parents and younger brother Blake were devastated, their lives torn apart. But now, 9 years later, a teenaged Ethan has returned, having escaped his new, often brutal life, to return to his old familiar one. Except it's not familiar. His mind traumatised by years of neglect culminating with a spell living on the streets, Ethan remembers nothing about his life at home before the abduction.
The book starts as Ethan and his family are reunited, and is told from his point of view as he struggles to fit back in to a normal family life, making friends, going to school, bonding with his family again. Ethan is not the only one struggling. Blake does not welcome the miracle return of his older brother, and the attention it brings his sibling. Gracie, a pseudo replacement child born years after the abduction, has no clue what's going on, not yet having been told about the missing older brother she'd never met. As personalities collide it's clear that Ethan's return, though very welcome, is not an easy transition for his family.
This book works especially well having a teen boy as the narrator. The descriptions are matter of fact rather than emotional. The style of writing is simple, the sentences staccato, often short as well as punchy. The chapters are brief. And yet it flows well. I read it over 2 days when I had a lot of other things going on - otherwise it would have taken far less time because I never wanted to put it down.
This is a short but thrilling book with various gripping twists. Ethan is massively likable, and you really feel his pain and awkwardness as he tries to readjust. High school is a tough enough time anyway, without being not only the new kid in class, but the miracle we all thought you were dead new kid. Equally, as his understandably over-protective parents watch his every move, it's easy to see how stifled he feels after a life of relative freedom in recent years.
This is an excellent, engaging Young Adult book that I think will have wide appeal. It's short enough and exciting enough for reluctant readers, and the language keeps things simple even when the story is more intricate. It's the sort of book you want everyone to read so you can talk about it with them, because it's a tale that cries out for discussion and analysis. The ending is frustrating, not because of what it reveals, but because it stops at that point. I'm not sure whether it will spawn a sequel but I feel it could, and it should. If that's not the sign of a great book, I'm not sure what is...
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Dead To You is out in May 2013. Pre-order it now in paperback or on Kindle. Trust me, it's worth it.