Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner
Pages: 216

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Published: May 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781742373843

When Aaron gets a job at a funeral home, he surprisingly takes to it. But there are dark secrets hidden in Aaron’s subconscious. He experiences dangerous bouts of sleepwalking and recurring dreams he can’t explain: a lifeless hand, a lipsticked mouth, a man, a gun... Can he piece the clues together and figure out the truth of his past?

I had no idea what to think of The Dead I Know before -- or even as -- I started. All I knew is that it was a recent Aussie release, and that was good enough for me. Though, by the end, I was pleasantly surprised.

There's a lot of mystery shrouding Aaron in the beginning. He's stoic, and initially doesn't give much away through either his dialogue or first-person narration. We understand him better once we get a look at his home life, and sympathise with him more. While it's heart-wrenching to see his life begin to fall apart, it's also inspiring to watch how he grows and develops from this.

The writing style was simple and engaging. It easily evoked Aaron's voice and helped the reader to become invested in his well-being.

The background characters -- namely the Barton family -- were realistically developed and fleshed out. John's almost fatherly role in Aaron's life created a hopeful dynamic, and Skye's relationship with him was in equal parts adorable and touching (Something about her character was really likeable... it was probably her name). Aaron began to feel like a part of their family; a second family contrasting the state of his real one.

The mysterious element to the story -- what Aaron's sleepwalking, almost- crazy mother, and strange recurring dreams all meant -- was well done, with suspense building until the mystery is finally unravelled. It isn't hard to piece it together yourself first, but it's worth sticking around to see Aaron's emotional reaction to it and how he bounces back.

Overall, an short and enjoyable read that I'd recommend to fans of darker YA.

I give The Dead I Know a 4 out of 5.