Friday, 9 December 2011

Book Review: The Half Life of Ryan Davis by Melinda Szymanik

“I found myself standing outside Mallory’s bedroom. The last door on the upstairs hallway. I’d seen those forensic crime shows on television. I know what dead people look like. In the beginning I’d imagined Mallory, pale, lying in long grass, her eyes closed. Just her face because I didn’t want to see beyond it.
But I couldn’t do it any more. Mum kept telling me she was still alive somewhere. And one day she’d come home and we’d be a happy family again but that was one big fat stupid lie. Mum could tell it to herself but I’d stopped believing it ages ago.”

Playing second fiddle to a ‘missing, presumed dead’ sister is soul-sucking for fifteen year old Ryan. There’s no way he can ever compare with a perfect girl who’s captured forever in one moment of time. But as Ryan tries to move on with his life he begins to appreciate just how difficult growing up can be.
And now there’s a stranger watching him. Will his family ever be whole again? Or did Mallory light the fuse that will blow it apart forever ...


The Half Life of Ryan Davis ~ a tall tales & short stories review

How best to describe this New Zealand YA novel? Well, here goes - The Half Life of Ryan Davis is a twisty, page-turning, contemporary and surprising YA thriller that feels fresh, modern and tightly-written.

Told in first-person, I believed I was listening to a fifteen-year-old boy and that's so important.  For a YA book to connect with teen readers it has to convince, and that's crucial to becoming totally involved in the story. For this reader, the prose must work and feel modern in it's construction and styling.  Melinda Szymanik writes with a taut style, where less is definitely more, and she manages to capture an authentic teenage boy's voice and create a tangible sense of what it's like in those often awkward teenage years.

But this is more than just a coming-of-age story, it has several elements that many can identify with, broken families, first love, but woven throughout is the mystery of Ryan's missing, presumed dead sister.  On the surface the story seems fairly straightforward, but boy is there a twist that I didn't see coming.  With any good thriller you try to work it out and, yes, with hindsight the clues are there, but the denouement took me by surprise and I loved the dark, rather disturbing twist and psychological sting in this tale.


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