Dead to Me by Mary McCoy

            Dead to Me is a young adult noir novel. Yes, a young adult noir mystery novel. How cool is that? It tells the story of Alice, a sixteen-year-old who finds her older sister Annie, who had run away years before, in the hospital. Alice is roped into the star-studded crime ring of 1940s Hollywood, while she tries to solve the mystery of who hurt Annie and protect Gabrielle, a young girl who Annie was caring for.

The tone of this novel was so interesting. Alice and her world are dark and moody, fitting with the noir idea. Dead to Mefeels like the Hollywood golden age. The setting—both the time period and the place—is wrapped around the story in a way that sets it apart from other young adult novels.

Dead to Me is a gorgeously plotted story. It is clear and fast-paced, so you can tell when you’re at the inciting incident or the climax or the conclusion—you could trace it easily on one of those plot charts from English classes. But it’s not predictable. You don’t expect all of the bad guys to be the bad guys. You don’t expect the heroes to be the heroes. The ending doesn’t tie everything up in a nice little bow. But still it all makes sense.

This is a complex story with complex themes and ideas and characters. I felt like with all of this complexity, the writing could have been a little more risky and interesting and often fell flat with me. There were a lot of places were scenes and plot points seemed cliché—though this often felt like a reflection of the noir mystery genre than a fault of McCoy herself. But that’s still an issue. How do you write a noir mystery novel for young people? Why is it different than a noir mystery novel for adults?

Dead to Me isn’t my favorite book that I’ve ever read, but it was one of the most innovative and exciting books that I’ve read this semester. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’m glad that McCoy took the risk of putting something into the literary world that we haven’t seen in the literary world.

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