Review–Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon

by Jennifer McMahon
Summary: When Henry, Tess, Winnie, and Suz form the Compassionate Dismantlers in college, the first rule of their manifesto is, "To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart." But their penchant for acts of meaningful vandalism and elaborate, often dangerous pranks results in Suz's death in the woods of Vermont—a tragedy the surviving Dismantlers decide to cover up.
Nearly a decade later, Henry and Tess are desperate to forget, but their guilt isn't ready to let them go. When a mysterious Dismantler-style postcard drives a past prank victim to suicide, it sets off a chain of terrifying events that threatens to tear apart their world and engulf their inquisitive nine-year-old daughter, Emma. Is there someone who wants to reveal their secrets? Or is it possible Suz has found a way to enact revenge?
Full of white-knuckle tension with deeply human characters caught in circumstances beyond their control, Jennifer McMahon's enthralling story proves that she is a master at weaving the fear of the supernatural with the stark realities of life.

Source: A friend gifted me with the paperback.

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Dismantled was pretty good. Like the author’s other novels, it dealt with secrets in the past, adults living with those secrets, and an attempt to unravel some sort of mystery connected with that past in the present day.

In the present, Tess and Henry lived a suffocating life with each other and their daughter Emma. In their college days, they were both passionate artists part of an extreme group of friends who had big plans to unravel and rebel against societal norms. Something happened to the group’s ringleader, Suz, but the story was told in the present with only bits of the past revealed to the reader as the story went on.

A few misunderstandings and a naïve attempt by Emma to reunite her parents began a series of events dredging up the past. I loved Emma and how she was so naïve and curious about her parent’s past in the Long Time Ago part of their lives. I love how the author seems to get that part of being a child so right in her novels where kids attempt to figure out the world around them and the adult complications around them and how they so often get it wrong. Her imaginary friend Danner added another level of mystery.

Dismantled was extremely confusing. It has a lot of low ratings and negative reviews, which I understand because it was hard to get through. I was frustrated because I couldn’t figure out anything. Was Suz back? Was it a ghost story? Was it Emma? Was it some sort of disorder with one of the people and they were channeling Suz? What. The. Heck. Was. Happening? If you’ve read any of the author’s other novels, you know that some of them contain otherworldliness and some are just plain old reality and people doing things. And some are both. It was somewhat frustrating because I knew that it could be ANY number of things and it would all be consistent with what the author typically does. I can sympathize with people who disliked the book because I often felt like putting it down because it wasn’t giving me any answers.

Despite my confusion, I couldn’t help but appreciate the novel once I finished. I liked the conclusion, the never knowing, the mixture of deceitful acts and coincidences, and the way the past eerily mirrored the present. The novel was suspenseful, delightfully creepy, and interesting. It isn’t my favorite of her books, but I say that all of the time because Don’t Breathe A Word is my favorite and she has yet to top it (in my opinion). Still, Dismantled was really good and complicated and worth the read, especially if you enjoy the types of issues and conflicts in her other books and how well she is able to weave a compelling story.


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