Ethan meets his family for the first time in nine years at an Amtrak station. In those years, Ethan can only remember a woman named Eleanor who abandoned him at a group home in Omaha, Nebraska. He eventually ran away from the home and lived on the street, in a park and near a zoo.
Ethan can't remember much of his life before the kidnapping. When he googled his name, Ethan Manuel De Wilde he got hundreds of hits and found that people had been looking for him. Ethan also found a family website where there were posts and pictures. This website eventually led him back home.
"I feel bad for having had to relearn everything about them from our little family website -- all those years I missed. And I feel bad that I don't remember them -- like I didn't care enough or something, you know? There's so much stuff to know. I've been gone more than half my life."Ethan returns to school but struggles to fit in. At home things don't go much better. His strange behaviour and his inability to remember what happened when he was abducted and in the time afterward are puzzling. Ethans memories don't return and he seems unable to remember family and close friends. This begins to make twelve year old Blake suspicious. and he begins to confront Ethan about who he really is.
As the De Wilde family continues to unravel, and the tension over Ethan increases, Dead To You races to its poignant, heartbreaking and somewhat surprising ending.
Lisa McMann has written an engaging, suspenseful novel that deals with the themes of identity, loss, betrayal, and love. Ethan is a deeply tragic character, for whom it's impossible not to feel some kind of empathy. His strange behaviour at times leads the reader to suspect that he is deeply disturbed young man who desperately needs help. When faced with intense anxiety, Ethan experiences uncontrollable laughter. It is this trait that makes Ethan a very realistic, believable character in the novel.
In contrast, there is Blake, the younger sibling who has been the oldest child for many years now and who sees his world turned upside down again. Blake is angry at Ethan for getting into the car when he should have known better. Blake's distrust, cynicism and his lack of compassion for Ethan make him a less likeable but very real character. Blakes mistrust is offset by the innocence and love that Gracie has towards Ethan. Because of this, Gracie is a truly heartwarming character whose love for Ethan affects him deeply.
This psychological thriller is definitely for older teens mainly because of the numerous f-bombs and the mature content in relation to the principal character, Ethan.
Dead To You by Lisa McCann
New York: Simon Pulse 2012