Educational Resource: The Half Life of Ryan Davis

Educational Resource
The Half Life of Ryan Davis
By Melinda Szymanik

The disappearance and presumed death of Ryan’s older sister Mallory three years earlier has had a profound effect on Ryan’s family and his life. His parent’s have divorced, his father has little to do with his children, and his mother has turned her focus on her missing daughter, to the extent that she almost completely excludes her younger children, Ryan, now fifteen, and his younger sister, thirteen year old Gemma.

Their mother’s strictness in the name of protecting them from Mallory’s fate and her high expectations of Ryan become overbearing, and Ryan just wants to do the things normal teenagers get to do. He starts dating Kim and gets a part time job, both without his mother’s knowledge, as she has already made him aware of her disapproval. When his plans to spend more time with his girlfriend alone backfire, things come to a head. Ryan runs away in the middle of the night, and unexpectedly meets with Mallory. Gemma is now left alone with their mother whose mental health is fast unravelling. When his little sister asks Ryan for help, their return home culminates in a dramatic scene between Mallory and their mother. Will their mother's state of mind lead to tragedy? Will Ryan’s family ever be whole again? Or did Mallory light the fuse that will blow it apart forever…

Family, family expectations, family pressure, growing up, isolation, fear, mental illness, teenage relationships, family breakdown, divorce, running away,

Discussion Questions
  1. Why do you think Ryan is so alone?
  2. How do you think the situation (Mallory running away) could have been avoided?
  3. Should Ryan have told his mother he had a girlfriend? Should he have told her about the job?
  4. Why do you think the author introduced the character of Kim?
  5. Should he have told someone what was happening with his mother? Who should he tell? Why didn’t other people notice what was happening in Ryan’s family?
  6. What advice would you give Ryan
  7. What clues can you find in the text to Mrs Davis’s state of mind
  8. Almost all of the characters in this story have secrets. Who doesn’t have any secrets? Are secrets sometimes necessary? What difference do the secrets make in this book? Do any of the secrets have a good result?
  9. What positive things occur in Ryan’s life as a result of everything that happens?

Teacher Notes

  1. Finding the good in the bad (Q7.) – the Father takes responsibility and becomes involved again with his children, Ryan’s mother gets the help she needs, Mallory is no longer separated from her family, Ryan realises that wanting a part time job and having a girlfriend are perfectly normal
  2. Recognising support networks for children outside of their own family members
  3. Acknowledging contributing factors to Mallory’s disappearance,
  4. Making connections – the mother’s attitude to Mallory/Ryan and Ryan’s attitude towards Gemma and his disapproval of her relationship with Alex

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