Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill
Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill is the story of a boy fighting for survival and discovering who he wants to be. The novel begins with the narrator refusing to give his name. He says “I won’t tell you, because I don’t want to lie to you. I want to tell the truth for once.” But he does lie. He lies to the other characters, occasionally to the reader, and even to himself.
A Canadian runaway, the narrator plays the system for hot meals and a warm bed. He’s a master at becoming whoever he needs to be to get what he wants and stumbles on the con of a lifetime when he impersonates Daniel Tate, a famous missing boy. However, he soon learns the seemingly perfect, loving family that’s accepted him as Daniel keeps secrets darker than his own past – secrets they’d kill to keep.
By the end, “Daniel” must use every con he knows. When that fails, he must trust someone with the truth, and even that might not be enough to save him.
If you don’t like first person point of view, where characters tell their own story, or unreliable narrators, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you like being steeped in the mind of a cunning character, intrigue, family secrets, and con men, this is the novel for you.
Just when you think you have the mystery of what happened to the real Daniel Tate figured out, Terrill reveals another puzzle piece, completely changing the picture. Here Lies Daniel Tate is the kind of story that will keep you reading until three in the morning even though you have an important presentation at eight am.
While Daniel’s past does contain abuse and a child goes missing, none of the violence happens on the page or is described in detail. It is only alluded to. There is also no sex shown. The only violence described occurs in a short scene where someone is shot and the mystery is solved.
If you don’t like unpredictable endings, this is not the story for you. Some might be angered by certain characters’ fates. Others (like me) will appreciate the twists and understand the story wouldn’t be as powerful without these.
Terrill immerses the reader in the mind of a teenage boy, showing they are far more than awkward almost adults driven by urges. Yes, “Daniel” likes a girl, but he’s also a compassionate older brother, searching for a family and place to belong, learning who he is and wants to be, and overcoming an abusive past. He is complex and smart and worth getting to know.
As a writer, it takes a lot for me to get lost in a book and stop seeing the mechanics of the story. I became lost in “Daniel’s” story and didn’t want the book to end. This is a novel I see myself rereading soon.