Review: Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Title: Dead to You, 243 pages

Author: Lisa McMann

Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)

Released: February 7th, 2012

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): 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…

My students and I are big fans of Lisa McMann, so whenever she publishes a book I read it without question.  I was especially excited to read Dead to You because it’s a contemporary thriller.  Also, I let one of my students read my ARC before I did so she could use it for her author study of Lisa McMann.  My student adored it and couldn’t stop gushing.

Dead to You, like many of Lisa McMann’s novels, is an engaging page-turner.  I have three classes of freshmen in a row, and I started Dead to You during SSR in my first section.  By the end of SSR in the final class, I was almost 100 pages in!  I may have given my kids 20 minutes of SSR time that day, but if you’ve read this book or when you do, you’ll understand why each class was given an extra 5 minutes.  Anyway, that’s a pretty big chunk of reading done in a short amount of time, but that almost always happens when I’m reading one of Lisa McMann’s books.  I’m always so engrossed and connected to the story.  My students typically feel the same way which is why her books are so popular in my classroom.  And to be honest, Dead to You had me hooked sooner than any of her other novels.

I can’t relate with Ethan and his family because fortunately I haven’t been in his situation, and I don’t know anyone who has.  I was still able to empathize with him and those around him.  We see this kind of reunion on the news, but we rarely see the day-to-day life and adjustments everyone goes through.  Lisa McMann gives us this insight and it’s brutal at times.  Ethan’s brother doesn’t trust him, Ethan can’t remember anything before the kidnapping, his mother is constantly crying and worrying, and his little sister–the replacement child–is innocent and surprisingly accepting of Ethan.  Watching Ethan trying to adjust and remember is often heartbreaking because it’s obvious how badly he wants it.  His blocked memory and old habits get in his way though.  It’s his vulnerable, secretive side left me wondering about his past and why he can’t remember anything.

For much of Dead to You I kept waiting for something big to happen.  Was a big secret going to be unveiled?  Were they going to track down the kidnapper?  Questions like these kept running through my mind as I raced through this book.  There’s foreshadowing that fits with the ending, and my mind went there from time to time, but I didn’t really think it would turn out that way.  While reading Dead to You, I was sure it was going to be a 5-star read, but the ending just blew up in my face.  We get this climatic scene, and it’s a great scene, but then that’s it.  I wanted to turn more pages.  I expected to turn more pages.  But there aren’t more pages available to turn.  The ending left me disappointed; it feels unfinished.  Of course I’m happy I read Lisa McMann’s newest novel, and I look forward to recommending it to my students, but I wish I had more at the end.


  1. I hear ya, Sarah!! A book that was impossible to put down, but not the ending I wanted.

  2. Hmmm…I’ll have to consider this before buying. I don’t like unsatisfying endings either.

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