Steven and Ryan had been friends on and off since elementary school. Having reconnected in high school, they were not typical friends. They didn’t do the things typical high school friends do, but may have been closer friends that Steven ever knew. Ryan’s alleged suicide has an odd impact on the community and especially Steven who regrets that Ryan will never know how much Steven loved him.
Unexplainable whispers of his name soon become clear, as the ghost of Ryan makes contact, works to prove he is, well, real, and begins to follow Steven around. Ryan wants Steven to help him figure out what happened, clear he did not kill himself. Steven’s inquiries take him to Michael, the editor of the school paper who adds to the mystery. Steven speaks to Michael in an attempt to figure out who had the motive for murder and discovers that Ryan was messing around with Michael, news that’s devastating to Steven.
The more Steven digs, the more that the ghost of Ryan evades and the worse Ryan’s situation turns out to have been. Suicide seems the most likely cause of Ryan’s death regardless of Ryan’s protests, and yet Steven can’t leave well enough alone and feels the need to prove that the boy he loved did not kill himself.
The suicide and its after effects felt odd because, at times, I laughed at some of the dialogue spoken at the funeral. I attended a high school where students passed away and can vouch for the “keep moving forward” or “carry on” attitude, the sorrow and shock passes much faster than one would think and really affects a small number of students long-term.
Something that I noticed in this, and the other book of McCormack’s that I read is that other than the main characters, everyone else was rather two-dimensional. In some books, this can be an issue but the interactions between Steven and the other characters were kept to a minimum, just enough to keep the story moving forward.
The premise seems too far-fetched, a conspiracy that would result in the murder of a high school student? The more Steven digs, the worse it looks for Ryan, forcing Steven to sift through the lies and deceit in order to uncover the truth, and at the same time, Steven needs to let go of his feelings for Ryan, but not until he figures our “who was Ryan Walters?”
As far as a YA title goes, this one is tough. Not difficult to read, but rather the topic of mental health and suicide is discussed in depth and in my opinion, with realistic circumstances and respect. If you like YA books, a good mystery, a light dose of the paranormal, and an outlandish premise that can be explained by the aforementioned dose of paranormal, I say go for When Ryan Came Back. You will not be disappointed.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.