by Mary McCoy
Published by Disney-Hyperion
on March 3, 2015
Source: e-ARC for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: "Don't believe anything they say." Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her--and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away. When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn't a kid anymore, and this time she won't let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets--and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie's attacker behind bars--if Alice can find her first. And she isn't the only one looking.My take: 1940s Noir -- think Chinatown or L.A. Confidential -- meets YA as good girl Alice tries to solve the mystery of how her wayward older sister ended up beaten and unconscious in the hospital.
To me, noir stories are all about exposing the dark, seedy underside of things. Because I love moral ambiguity, these kind of stories always appeal to me. This book is set in 1940s Hollywood, as sheltered Alice tries to unravel the mystery of her older sister's horrific injuries and learns a lot of hard lessons about the world in the process. Noir stories also often involve a shocking betrayal, and I felt that this aspect of the book didn't feel as crushing as it could or should have.
Highlight for spoiler: Cy's betrayal would have felt a lot sharper if he and Alice had more of a relationship. I was never quite sure what his role in the story was -- as a potential love interest for Alice? I was surprised that he was the betrayer, but in more of a "huh" kind of way, not an "OMG!" kind of way. End spoiler.
The setting of this book was great -- I always love Hollywood stories that are able to emphasize both the glamour and the seediness of that world. There was pretty much zero romance, which was fine with me, but I also felt that the setting and plot overshadowed the characters to some extent. There was one character (Jerry) who was intriguingly hard to pin down, but some of the others felt a bit typecast: the plucky heroine, the loyal best friend, the sleazy, womanizing villain, the brassy bad girl with the heart of gold, etc. And while I liked the the hardboiled voiceover quality of the narration, in a book that can result in a bit of a tell-not-show feel. Then again, that's pretty much the noir style: the world-weary detective tells you a story about how one day this dame walked into his office....
Dead to Me has a lot to offer -- it feels completely different from the typical YA historical fiction, and it features a lot of great girl power and some unexpected plot twists. If you're looking for something different to read, give it a try!