Monday, June 22, 2015

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner

Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Author Website: 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

In his short time on earth, Billy Zeets did everything to get into trouble. Whether it was egging cars, stealing things from houses in his neighborhood or being an all-around menace, everyone knew he was no good. After back to back traumatic events shifted everything in his world, Billy knew it was time to change. He had responsibilities no fourteen year-old kid should, and he'd be damned if he didn't try to make ends meet.

Since many of the adults in town had long given up on him, Billy was able to slink around, noticing things that others might not. He noticed boys his age going missing, a strange car prowling around the neighborhood, and no one wanted to hear it unless he had proof. When the opportunity came to get that necessary proof and take care of his responsibilities, Billy didn't waste time in thinking things over because the decision was made for him. Can he escape the fate of the other boys? Can he do so and keep the vow he made so long ago?

This was one of those late night finds while searching through the Mystery genre at NetGalley. From the description and look of the cover, I figured it was going to be something akin to a haunted house story with a twist. What I found instead was a first person point-of-view account of one teen's survival against every parent's nightmare. The story took place in a rural town where jobs were hard to come by, but neighbors knew everyone and their business. Billy and his family were one of many that fell on hard times and faced some hard decisions after their lives took some dramatic turns.

Billy was a fourteen year-old boy who was left to raise himself after their family suffered a devastating loss and his father was involved in an accident. He shared the burden with his sister, Lezzie, in the beginning. However, she soon found a way out, leaving Billy to find a way to save the family home. As Billy scours the town for odd jobs to raise whatever money he can, he introduced several types of characters to the reader. The junker who prowled the alleyways for anything to sell for a buck, the drugstore delivery driver with a bum foot that let Billy help, the crazy old lady who rarely answered her door and wore tin foil under her clothes - they all had a role in the town. Even the kids knew their place in the town, so it was common for fights to break out among the boys. All the boys around Billy's age came under a spotlight the moment that two local boys went missing and one turned up in a creek.

The book's pacing and dialogue was determined by Billy's dictation. The words on the page became a transcript of what he was speaking, something reinforced by him in the last chapter. At times I had trouble understanding what Billy tried to say because a lot of the words featured the local 'twang' that he used. The story started slow, but ramped up as decision-making was taken from him. Like in many mystery books, certain elements of surprise and distraction appeared in their appropriate places. Though some were predictable, I did like that Billy's personality and stubbornness created a few unexpected surprises during the peak of the action.

To be honest, this book wasn't exactly what I expected to read. Now that I've finished the book, I don't think the story could've been told any other way than through Billy's experiences. He spoke with a child's honesty about everything, contrasting sharply with the adults in the town who held tightly onto their secrets. One more positive point to add to the book's column was the implied violence on the missing boys at the hand's of the suspect. Billy told how the boys looked before they went missing, and later related some of the injuries found on their bodies. While Billy mentioned all that he endured, the entirety of the evil done to them wasn't put into words. Overall, this book was a fairly quick read with a good amount of entertainment to keep me turning the pages. I'm curious to see if anything else happens to Billy in the coming years as the ending left a few doors open. Definitely put this on your reading list if you like a book which uses your imagination as a tool or simply need something creepy to fill those late night hours before dawn arrives.

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner is currently available at several online retailers. It can be purchased in either hardcover, audio-book or Kindle (digital) editions. The link below provides the book's Amazon page.
Ask the Dark by Henry Turner

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