This book has a lot going for it, a coming of age story (personal favourites), paranormal elements, young love and a mystery. While that is all good and well, it needs to be packed in a nice package. Boy let me tell you, this book come wrapped in a shiny package, with a big red bow on top.
After reading Hideous, I was quite curious what When Ryan Came Back would be like. It’s always hard to write a romance where one of the characters is dead, not undead, but dead dead. How does that work? And let’s not get started on the logistics of it all. Fortunately the story does not disappoint.
Part of the above is solved by laying the emphasis of this story on the mystery. Who killed Ryan? Why? What nefarious thing did Ryan discover? Or was it something closer to home?
I was also very happy to read that not a whole lot of time was spent on explanations. It’s something that doesn’t always work in paranormal stories. Authors tend to spend pages upon pages trying to explain their story away. Some things just are. Like Ryan coming back as a ghost and Steven’s ability to see him. I thought it was a nice touch and gave the story that right amount of mysterious air.
The plot tackles multiple angles. There is, of course, the mystery. Did Ryan really killed himself or did someone murder him? And why? Then there is Steven himself. Quiet and sometimes shy, he keeps to himself and his small group of friends. He’s yet unsure of what to do with his life, who he is and his sexuality. The pressure from the home front doesn’t help. His mother is a bit of tool and his father is away more often than not. In-between the mystery and Steven himself, there is also the discovery of Ryan’s secret sex life. Did Steven really know his best friend?
There were a few instances where you just want to hug Steven. He’s in love with his best friend…who just died and came back and here he is, discovering all these things about Ryan that he never knew. Steven is definitely entitled to his drama moments.
I thought all the angles were balanced quite well. The story is well paced and unrushed. We get a good feel for the characters, who they are and what drives them, even if we learn about them through Steven. None of these characters are the glorified, perfect teens we sometimes see in young adult stories. They have their faults and do stupid, not so smart things. I mean, come on, did you never make a mistake when you were a teenager? Didn’t you ever play games instead of doing homework?
Ryan especially. When we first meet him, he’s actually not that pleasant. It’s clear he didn’t just make a slip-up. He fucked up. He’s a very conflicted character. It was nice to see how he evolves throughout the story and changes. Yes, even in death you can still become a better version of yourself.
Steven also grows throughout the story. He comes into his own at the end of the story. When we first meet him, it’s clear he has some growing up to do and in a way needs something to kick-start him. He’s a bit of a wallflower, afraid to make ripples, but he learns that sometimes you just have to make ripples to get where you need to go. Or discover who you are. Even if that means making mistakes.
Steven and Ryan are not the only characters. There is a good and solid cast that supports this story. Some characters are more prominent than others, but none of the support cast had that cardboard feeling. They have their own voice and add to the story.
The ending? Not going to spoil anything. I am going to say that it may not be picture perfect, but it’s fitting for the story.
With When Ryan Came Back the author delivers a wicked good paranormal mystery story.
Why you should read it: When Ryan Came Back was a well written story with a good flow and a mystery that will keep you guessing, all packed in a nice paranormal package. It has the right amount of angst and teens being teens, who curse, play video games, post updates on Facebook and have sex. Just a note, there is no explicit sex in this book (that would just be awkward).