Book Review: Dismantled


Jennifer McMahon


432 pages

So I think we’re all familiar with the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.  I hate to say it, but when applied literally to actual books, it’s hard NOT to.  So I admit it, and I am not ashamed at all—I always judge a book by its cover!

Dismantled is the perfect example of how I am affected by covers.  I saw it and I instantly wanted to read it. The girl on the cover looks both a little bit creepy and a little forlorn. And it seems more artistic than just a cutesy little girl.

The premise of the book makes it even better.  You have four college friends—Suz, Winnie (fka Val), Henry and Tess—who call themselves the Compassionate Dismantlers and spend the summer after graduation together in a little ramshackle cabin living in the middle of the woods in Vermont.  To understand what the Dismantlers are all about, here’s their creed—

To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart

And there you have it.  They like to dissect, perform arson and basically just mess with people.  In fact, I wasn’t a big fan of the Dismantlers.  Suz was the group leader and to say she cared little about anyone else’s feelings would be putting it mildly. She just seemed like a raging bitch who expected everyone to bow down to her as she trampled all over them.  I am guessing it was some type of insecurity but I didn’t feel like the reader was given enough personal information about her to make a judgment either way.  I’ll just say that she had me more frustrated and irritated than any other character I’ve read about in a long time.  Any one else have that reaction?

Ok, so all of a sudden the Dismantlers summer ends in a horrible, tragic way with the death of Suz.  Obviously part of the mystery to the reader is how did she die? Why?  McMahon kept us in suspense!  All we know is that Tess and Henry, now the married parents of a nine year old named Emma, feel an enormous amount of guilt over what happened to Suz.  So when she all of a sudden seems to be haunting them, they try hard to ignore it while still coming to terms with what happened ten years earlier.

Did I like this book?  Honestly, I am not quite sure.  As far as a mystery goes, it was actually pretty sucky if you want my opinion.  Did I see it coming?  No.  The things that were happening though were so wacky and hard to string together though that I really couldn’t fathom what was going on.  It seemed like a novice’s attempt at writing a mystery.  I found the book readable and, like I was telling my sister, it reminded me of The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, albeit a subpar version.  Even so, it had that comparison going for it.

In a nutshell, I really disliked two of the main characters (Winnie and Suz), while I felt that Henry and Tess were both too passive.  For instance, their marriage is falling apart but they keep expecting the other person to make a move to fix things.  And then you have the unbelievable twists and turns of the story.  So while entertaining, this book definitely had some major flaws for me.  Even so, I would recommend it as a great summer read.

Other Reviews:

The Book Zombie

Jenn’s Bookshelves

Lit & Life


Chick with Books

drey’s library

I borrowed this book from my local library.

This book counts towards the Debutante Ball challenge!

8 Responses

  1. Is that supposed to be Emma on the cover? And is she even in the story enough to merit being on the cover?

  2. I like that cover a lot, too. As I was reading several books I’ve read kept flashing through my head: The Secret History, as you mentioned, The Robber Bride (bitchy main character), and a short story by Graham Greene called “The Destructors.” I’d be curious if there were any references to it in this book since it was about a band of little boys who tore a house to pieces from the inside out.

    Definitely gonna have to try to get my hands on this one to see what I think.

  3. That is definitely one creepy cover. I think it’s the extra half-eye that does it for me. I’m not sure the story would be for me though.

  4. wow, even with all those caveats you’d still recommend it- sounds like one to watch for! 🙂 great review!

  5. Ha – I was thinking “this sounds like an inferior version of The Secret History” even before you mentioned it 😛

  6. I agree with you that this cover is awesome, but I’ve debated back and forth on whether I actually want to read it or not.

  7. This one actually really pulled me along. I guess I bought that Tess and Henry would keep waiting for the other person to make the move and know what they needed–I’ve seen it happen in marriages. Suz? Well, she was a problem for me but the group we hung with in college kind of ended up being a the whim of one person. I’d like to think that we would all have stood up to her if she’s have suggested arson. But who knows for sure.

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