When Ryan Came Back, Devon McCormack
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: Young Adult
Tags: Contemporary, Ghost, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Check out an interview and giveaway with Devon McCormack here.
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.
Anyone who knows me and the types of books I read know that I am huge on books with ghosts in them and I’m all about a good mystery. I read the blurb of When Ryan Came Back a few weeks ago and could not wait to get my hands on it. Yes, I’m a fan of the author, but that only played a small part in my eagerness to read the book. I have to say I was not disappointed.
Ryan is dead, supposedly by his own hand. Very popular and a happy guy to those who knew him, no one can understand how such a easygoing guy would take his life, leaving his poor mother all alone. But mostly Steven, a childhood friend of Ryan’s, is really confused. Didn’t Ryan have everything to live for? He was dating the most popular girl in their high school. He was a popular jock. Everyone loved him and wanted to be his friend. Sure, he lost his father years before, but time helped him with his grief. Why would he commit suicide?
Steven attends Ryan’s viewing and funeral, but for some reason the fact that his secret crush is dead doesn’t hit him. Where are the tears? The strong emotions? Why does he feel like Ryan isn’t really gone? They were just together goofing off in a bookstore just a few days before. He can’t be dead. But he is.
Then Ryan shows up in Steven’s bedroom. Oh, he’s definitely dead, but he wants Steven to help him find out what really happened to make him that way. He’s convinced that he didn’t commit suicide as everyone assumed. But who would want to kill the teenage boy? Steven, not surprisingly, freaks out when he sees the ghost of the boy he’s loved his whole life standing in his bedroom not long after the funeral. It takes a little while for Ryan to convince him that he’s really there and that he does need help. With Steven being the only person who can see Ryan, this takes him on a journey to discover the mystery of Ryan’s death. Unfortunately, Ryan isn’t as forthcoming to Steven as he needs to be and Steven discovers things he probably never needed to discover about the boy he secretly loved. Ryan Walters wasn’t the person Steven, and others, thought he was. He wanted Steven to find out what caused his death, but he did not want Steven finding out a few other things. Sadly, Steven digs deep enough and discovers things that end up hurting him badly.
There is an interesting cast of characters, both main and secondary. Some stand out more than others, but each one is critical to the story as a whole. From Ryan’s mother to Steven’s (I have no words for my thoughts on Steven’s mother) to people who Ryan secretly slept with. It’s the latter that devastates Steven the most. He, Steven, was in love with Ryan but Ryan had been with all these other guys while pretending to be straight. What was wrong with HIM? Why couldn’t the other boy see HIM that way? Not only was he dealing with Ryan’s death, but now he was dealing with the fact that Ryan had wanted (what seemed like) every other boy except him.
I have to say that I was not a fan of Ryan early on because of all the deception. I felt a lot of sympathy for Steven, who ached knowing that the boy he had loved for so many years hadn’t loved him back. That wasn’t an issue for Steven while Ryan was alive because he had been convinced that Ryan was straight. To discover after his death that he had lived a totally secret life that involved other males was sad to watch. But then everything changed for me with Ryan. I’m not going to say I downright despised the guy in the beginning because that wouldn’t be true. I just wasn’t sure exactly how I felt about him. Then more truths started coming out and I saw Ryan for who he was – a scared, closeted teen who had lived his life with this persona that he had felt he had to live up to. It made me stop and think about how difficult it must be for people who try to keep things so close to the vest that it ends up hurting them badly later. Suddenly any misgivings I had about Ryan disappeared and I felt sad for him. I was sad because he couldn’t be who he wanted to be in life. He had to pretend in order to maintain the image he had struggled so long to create.
Then there is the mystery of the story. If Ryan didn’t commit suicide, who killed him? Ryan has his own theories that seem more than a little far-fetched to Steven. The more Steven investigates, the more he discovers about not only Ryan, but others in the community as well. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that no way in hell did I see that resolution coming. I can usually figure out who the bad guy is fairly early in mysteries. That was not the case with When Ryan Came Back. I thought I was convinced the whos and whys but I was way off base. That had me loving the story that much more.
Once again Devon McCormack has written a Young Adult book that has teenagers written as real teens. The language is not glossed over, nor are certain topics that some other YA books shy away from. Teens curse. Teens have sex. That’s the way it is. It’s always refreshing to read one of Devon’s YA/NA books because I know I will see teens for how they are in the real world.
Overall, I loved this book. It had the ghost, the mystery, and a nice love story. It kept me guessing (as I state above) until the resolution and it ended better than I could have anticipated. An outstanding book and highly recommended.
I love the cover. It’s perfect for the story.
This book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will be purchasing a copy (as I always do with this author’s books) when it is released.