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Denis Ever After

Review

Denis Ever After

I requested to review DENIS EVER AFTER as I thought that the premise was intriguing. When I received the book and realized that the author, Tony Abbott, had also written THE SUMMER OF OWEN TODD I was even more excited to delve in as I knew that Abbott was not the type of author to stray away from tough topics, even when writing for children and young adults. In DENIS EVER AFTER, Abbott certainly didn’t skirt any big topics, such as death, grief and morality, that arise throughout the storyline and that is a primary strength of the novel. However, I feel like Abbott was unsuccessful in tying together all of the threads in DENIS EVER AFTER or perhaps there were too many disparate threads that were too “short” to weave fully and seamlessly into the story. But these messy threads did not prevent me from staying up way past my bedtime two nights in a row reading DENIS EVER AFTER.

"DENIS EVER AFTER is a compelling book as evidenced by my late nights up reading it. And it is a great mystery with dashes of humor, horror and reality thrown in at the perfect times."

Denis is dead and has been for five years. He died at the age of seven, leaving behind his twin brother, Matt, and his parents to grieve, question his loss and try to move on without him. Denis, along with other souls, lives in Port Haven, which is a pleasant place for souls to reside while waiting to be scrubbed clean of their memories and for those they left behind to forget them. Once a soul is clean and forgotten they can move on to the afterlife. Denis is a bit unique in terms of souls as most souls in Port Haven remain the age they were at their death, but Denis has grown and aged because Matt has consistently imagined Denis aging with him. 

Denis, now “12,” enjoys Port Haven and has grown quite close to GeeGee, his great grandmother. However, recently Matt has been incessantly thinking about Denis and these thoughts have resulted in deafening noises in his head and raging headaches. In order to end these assaults and to become clean so that he can move on to the afterlife Denis must risk visiting Matt. Returning to the land of the living is potentially dangerous and definitely painful as the souls must go through the razor. Spending time with the living makes a soul heavier resulting in each subsequent visit through the razor being more painful. Also, souls that spend too much time with the living can get stuck there. 

When Denis returns to the world of his family he discovers how severely his death has torn asunder the threads that connect his family. As Denis slowly reveals himself to Matt and the twins reconnect, he learns about the circumstances of his death and uncovers why Matt’s thoughts of him have become so incessant, urgent and painful. Denis does not know how he died as the first thing that souls forget upon their entry to Port Haven is their deaths. Denis was murdered; at the age of seven he disappeared from an amusement park the family was visiting, several days later his mangled body was discovered at Gettysburg placed at the foot of the Georgia monument. Matt has discovered the police file on Denis’s murder, resulting in his renewed and frantic thoughts about his twin brother. 

The brothers pair up to try to solve Denis’s unsolved murder. As they uncover clues, Denis’s memories of his last days and moments come back to him leading the brothers ever closer to the answers they seek. However, Matt’s interest in Denis’s murder places further strain on the fragile threads that bind together his living family. Matt and Denis hope that perhaps the one thing that can save their family doesn’t irrevocably damage it in the process. 

DENIS EVER AFTER is a compelling book as evidenced by my late nights up reading it. And it is a great mystery with dashes of humor, horror and reality thrown in at the perfect times. However, as the clues lead Denis and Matt closer to the answers they seek and the threads start to wind together, I felt like many of the threads could not be neatly wound together with the rest. Most of these threads related specifically to Denis’s disappearance and death and seemed too coincidental or implausible to me. Yes, I realize that I just wrote that sentence in regards to a book about a ghost who visits his brother in order to solve his own murder, but Abbott’s presentation of that storyline is very believable; it is in the supporting threads that the story begins to fray. 

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on August 20, 2018

Denis Ever After
by Tony Abbott