If there's one thing The Dead I Know did well, it's that it convinced me that I never want to be a sleepwalker. It would be terrifying to wake up every morning, unsure of where you are and how you got there. And who knows who would take advantage of you when you're like that *shivers*
Sleepwalking aside, however, there are a lot of reasons to read Scott Gardner's The Dead I Know. In a short period of time the reader watches Aaron Rowe's life completely fall apart in front of him and it is a heart breaking but authentic read. I'm personally amazed by how long he managed to keep it together. He's alone, no friends, living in sketchy caravan park surrounded by criminals and drug users and if that wasn't bad enough he's a sleepwalker trying to take care of an old woman suffering from dementia. I for one, wouldn't have blamed this poor kid if he had broken down much earlier than he did. The Dead I Know tackles a lot of important, but difficult, issues, but it does so with care and respect.
In addition to being an emotional read, The Dead I Know was an interesting look into the life of a funeral director. When Aaron goes to work for the funeral home, I was surprised by how much detail the reader was given. You are exposed to everything, from body pickup, to preparing their hair and clothes, to the building of the casket and finally the funeral itself. It's not always easy to read about, especially if you've lost someone close to you. But as with all the issues in this book, Scott Gardner tackles death honestly. It may not be easy to read about, but it is authentic.
Ultimately, however, I wasn't 100% sure what point the novel was trying to make - if any. Could have been something about the kindness of strangers, or learning to trust others. Or even realizing you're not alone and that no one is an island. These were all potential messages, but they didn't immediately jump out at me. I had to spend some time after I had finished reading, brainstorming on the message of this book and wondering what I was supposed to get out of it. And though it is not usual for me or other readers to spend time dwelling on a book's message after we're done reading, I think the point of The Dead I Know may be lost on a lot of teen readers.
Overall The Dead I Know was a really interesting and fascinating read but it just felt like it was missing something. I can't quite figure out what it was but it left me feeling like my experience with the novel was incomplete.
Final recommendation: A good book for those who have had trouble asking for help, especially when faced with a sick parent/loved one. You are not alone.
This and other reviews at Hooked on Books (http://christashookedonbooks.blogspot.com)