Title: When Ryan Came Back
Author: Devon McCormack
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Pages/Word Count: 222 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Steven’s life changes forever the day he discovers his childhood friend and lifelong crush, Ryan Walters, standing in his bedroom. The problem? Ryan Walters committed suicide just days earlier.
Ryan tells Steven that he didn’t kill himself. He believes he was murdered and that his death is linked to an article he was working on for the school paper. Steven sets out to solve the mystery, but as the story unfolds, so does Ryan’s secret life of sex with guys and depression. Steven realizes suicide is more plausible than Ryan’s conspiracy theory, but he struggles to convince Ryan of the real cause of his death. And despite revelations of his friend’s closeted life, he must face the truth that Ryan doesn’t—and never will—love him.
Review: As soon as I read the blurb for When Ryan Came Back, I knew it was going to be very different from anything I’ve ever read before. I was right. I usually shy away from YA stories. I think it’s because I’m not into teenage angst, or I never think I’m going to relate to the characters. That being said, I’ve recently read a few YA books that were phenomenal, and this was one of them.
When we first meet Steven he’s just found out his friend Ryan, someone he’s secretly been in love with forever, has committed suicide. Shortly after the funeral, and while Steven is still trying to come to grips with his friends death, Ryan shows up in Steven’s bedroom in all his ghostly glory. Steven’s reaction to seeing Ryan was classic and downright hilarious. It was one of the funniest scenes I’ve read in a long time. The laughter was short lived, though, when Ryan tells Steven he didn’t commit suicide. He asks Steven, the only person who can hear and see him, to help him find out what happened to him.
I do admit the first couple of chapters moved a little slow for me. I wasn’t sure where this story was going, and I lost some interest. I put it down and read something else. When I came back to it, though, I was determined to see it through and wow, that third chapter sucked me in and didn’t let me go. What we have here is a classic whodunit. It was so well done and written in such a way that we are kept in the dark until the big reveal at the end. And wow, what a shocker it was! Meanwhile, Steven is discovering things about Ryan that he never knew, some quite earth shattering, at least to Steven. As he peels back layer upon layer of information about Ryan, he comes to the sad conclusion that he never really knew his friend. There were many times during this story I wanted to reach out and give him a hug; lord knows he needed one.
There are some things brought to light here that aren’t very pretty and at times a little hard to read. I was even a little surprised at what some of Steven’s snooping revealed. One of the secrets gave me a WTF moment because I wasn’t expecting it. Though it is not a spoiler because it doesn’t have any bearing on the outcome of the story, there is mention of a person in authority having sex with students. I do have to say the author handled it really well, and it made sense in the direction the story was going. It wasn’t just put there for shock value. All of the students consented and none of them felt abused. Just a little warning for those of you who may have a tigger point with that storyline.
The secondary characters really made the story move along. From Steven’s best friend Lindsey, to Tyler, a potential boyfriend, and we can’t forget his parents, which in itself is a long story. From Officer Wickley to Ryan’s mom, they all added color and intrigue to an already intriguing story.
As with any YA story, there is a lot of self discovery, growing pains, and harsh realities come to light in a character’s life. With Steven it was even more so. He is a typical teenager who is full of self doubt, especially at the beginning of the book. As the story moved along, we saw him become more confident and mature, with a better understanding of how the world works, be it for the good or bad.
I didn’t give away what I thought to be spoilers but know this; the ending is really bittersweet, but I finished the book with a smile on my face. I’m sure you will too.
A highly recommended read.
You can buy When Ryan Came Back here: