I didn’t know what to expect when I listened to Ask the Dark by Henry Turner, a teen/YA novel, but I was pleasantly surprised by a suspenseful thriller with a lot of emotional depth.
Fifteen-year old Billy Zeets, a southern teen (Georgia, I think) who narrates the story, has had his share of trouble. Billy’s mom died recently, leaving him with his dad and his older sister. His father was injured falling off the roof and can no longer work, leaving the family in dire circumstances, and Billy’s sister is dressing and acting more and more promiscuous, though you can tell that she and Billy really care for each other. With his world falling apart, Billy has turned to petty stealing and vandalism and has gained a reputation for being up to no good.
When a neighborhood boy turns up dead and then another goes missing, Billy has some information he thinks might be relevant. The problem is that the police won’t listen to anything he says because of his past problems. Billy finally decides that he needs to investigate on his own in order to save the local boys. The novel opens with Billy in the hospital, being visited by grateful parents, and the rest of the book is his telling of what happened.
Billy has a unique and compelling voice, often swearing and then apologizing for it, as he steadfastly tells his story, step by step. He is an unusual kind of hero, viewed by most people as a troublemaker but earnestly trying to do the right thing. Though you know from the beginning that Billy will be OK in the end, there is still a considerable amount of suspense in this novel, as the mystery builds and Billy gets pulled further and further into the darkness.
The audio production was well done, with Lincoln Hoppe doing a great job of narrating in Billy’s slow southern drawl. I was pulled right into the story and listened almost compulsively as the suspense built, wanting to know what happened next. Although this novel could be easily categorized as mystery or thriller, it has plenty of heart and emotional depth, too, as you grow to like Billy and root for him to not only save the other boys but for things to work out for his family, too. I enjoyed this fast-paced, intricate story and would love to read more from Henry Turner.