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“Maybe everyone wore a mask,” I thought. “Maybe everyone had one self they showed the world, with a weaker, damaged person underneath,” Adele. –The Lonely Dead      

The Lonely Dead

by April Henry
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For years, doctors have told Adele that she has schizophrenia, that the ghosts she sees are just a figment of her imagination. Adele is tired of living in a drug-induced fog and decides to ditch the drugs. But now the ghosts are back. When Adele finds her ex-best friend’s body and her ghost, she realizes the dead aren’t really dead and only she can talk to them.

When Tori’s body is found in a shallow grave, the police focus their investigation on Adele. As the prime suspect in the murder, Adele decides to find the killer, which means working with Tori’s ghost. When Tori begins questioning others, danger comes from all directions. Will she be able to find the murderer or will the murderer silence Adele forever?

The Lonely Dead has an interesting premise but lacks suspense or any sense of urgency. Adele lacks personality and common sense. In her search to find the killer, the clues come too easily and she makes unwise choices. It is difficult to believe that she would trust a murder suspect just because the suspect is good-looking. Even though Tori’s death should add a tragic tone to the story, it is hard to feel sorry for the self-centered girl who was mean to everyone and lacked self-control.

The story teaches about the dangers of alcohol and the importance of being aware of one’s surroundings. However, the author takes the idea of a blackout too far. Tori does not know who killed her because she blacked out, and Adele wonders if she blacked out and then killed Tori. Not only is this unrealistic, but Adele’s confusion borders on the absurd.

Adele is surrounded by turmoil; both her mother and grandmother died due to mental disorders, her harsh grandfather gives her little support, and she is friendless. The story focuses too much on Adele’s inner monologue as well as her past struggles. Instead of being interesting, the family’s background takes away from the murder mystery and adds little to the story. To make matters worse, the police, the student teacher, and the psychologist are all portrayed in a negative light.

One good point of the story is the focus on Tori’s bad behavior. Adele points out that Tori hurt people when she ignored them. Adele said, “You might not ever have laid a hand on them, but it still hurts when someone acts like you’re not even there.” You may want to avoid The Lonely Dead since the murder mystery lacks interesting characters, surprises, or a sense of urgency.

Sexual Content

  • Adele goes to kiss a boy. “My improvised plan is to cover his mouth with my thumbs and then kiss them. It’s a game kids used to play. . . And instead of kissing my thumbs, I press my lips against Charlie’s warm, soft ones.”
  • While playing hide and seek at a party, Adele ends up in a closet with Tori’s boyfriend, Luke. They kiss. Adele, “found my mouth suddenly pressed against his. We weren’t making a sound, but it was like everything inside of me was singing and shouting. I was alive and kissing. . . Under my hands, his shoulders were taunt with muscle. My nose filled with his sharp smell that was at once familiar and not. His mouth tasted like beer.” Tori finds them.
  • At the party, Tori was “dirty dancing with some of the guys, even at one point dropping the straps on her dress and flashing everyone.”
  • Someone says that Tori was “all over Ethan” even though he has a girlfriend.
  • Tori implied that she had a sexual relationship with a student teacher and “that it was her idea.”
  • One of the character’s dads was cheating on his wife, so she kicks him out of the house.
  • Luke kisses Adele. She thinks, “Luke’s lips are so soft, but then they press into me hard. I freeze. My heart pulses in my ears. My skin feels tight. It’s like I’m drowning, like there isn’t enough air.”
  • Adele kisses Charlie. “I put my arms around him. Then I close my eyes and press my mouth to Charlie’s. Just as I remember, his lips are soft and warm, and he tastes like peppermint.”


  • The story revolves around discovering who murdered Tori. When Adele finds the body, she discovers a “dark line that runs across her throat. She wasn’t choked with hands, but with something like a thin rope. Other, shallower red marks run from just under her chin to the hollow of her throat. Tori must have clawed her own skin, trying to save herself. On the back of her neck, the dark line ends in two purple-red oval bruises.”
  • Tori said her father never “leaves bruises,” but “he’s pushed me a few times when I made him mad. Once he grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go to a party.”
  • Adele meets the ghost of a prostitute that was killed by a customer. The ghost tells Adele, “The guy who did it was one of my regulars.”
  • When Adele’s grandfather discovers that Adele has stopped taking her medication, he slaps her. “My mouth falls open as the blood rushes to my stinging skin.”
  • A girl accuses Adele of killing Tori, then pushes Adele. Someone throws something at Adele. Luke steps in to protect Adele, and fists are thrown. “Then Luke hits him square in the nose. Justin staggers back, blood slicking his upper lip.” A girl slips and hurts her arm.
  • The person who killed Tori tries to kill Adele. “He shifts his grip, and the leash tightens even further, making me cough.” Adele hits the person in the throat and is able to escape. There is a chase and Adele is able to hit the person with a board. “It hits his head with a sound like a cantaloupe falling to the floor.” The person is arrested.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Adele is walking through the park, a girl calls out to her. Adele thinks, “I’m afraid of homeless guys, of drunk guys, of guys who might try to drag me into the bushes. Not of some girl who knows my name.”
  • Adele wonders if her friend is drunk or on drugs.
  • Adele sees ghosts, but her doctor and grandfather think she is schizophrenic. She is supposed to take pills to keep her from being delusional. Adele doesn’t like taking drugs because they “bleed the color from everything. How they make me feel dizzy and drowsy and sick to my stomach.”
  • Adele attends Tori’s party, where teens are drinking alcohol. The ghost of Tori doesn’t remember much about the party because she was drinking “shots.” When Adele saw Tori at the party, “she had a glass in her hand, and half of those times she was shouting ‘Shots’ then tossing down her drink.” The class discusses the dangers of drinking including alcohol poisoning and blackouts.
  • A class assignment asks students to think about Dwight. He “drinks on weekends, he turns into a different person. He is belligerent and aggressive, and often gets into fights.”
  • At the funeral viewing, “cigarette and even pot smoke lingers in the air, and a few of my classmates are tipping back flasks I’m pretty sure hold more than just water.”


  • Oh God and Oh my God are used several times as exclamations.
  • Hell is used three times. For example, when Tori finds Adele kissing her boyfriend, she yells, “What the hell? What the actual hell?”
  • Crap, damn, and pissed are used once.
  • Tori calls Luke a jerk.


  • Adele can see and talk to ghosts of people and animals. The dead are tethered to their body by a cord that runs to their bodies ’ skull. Tori says that some ghosts, “who’ve been here a long time say that folks from really old graves keep getting fainter and fainter. A couple have just disappeared. And people who’re cremated—they say you never see them at all, even if the remains are buried here on the grounds.”
  • Adele meets the ghost of a girl who died on the Oregon Trail. The ghost tells her that wolves would dig up the graves. While on the trail she saw, “an arm lying in the wagon ruts. Just an arm. We never could find the grave from which it came.”

Spiritual Content

  • Tori wonders if she is in “limbo.” But Adele tells her, “I think the Catholics did away with that.” Then Tori asks, “So is this hell? Being stuck here with no one to talk to besides you?”
  • After Tori dies, she realizes how painful it is to have people ignore her, and she says, “Maybe God has a sense of humor.”
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“Maybe everyone wore a mask,” I thought. “Maybe everyone had one self they showed the world, with a weaker, damaged person underneath,” Adele. –The Lonely Dead      

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