Book Review: ‘Ask the Dark’ by Henry Turner

February 15, 2015     Holly     Reviews

Book Review: ‘Ask the Dark’ by Henry TurnerAsk the Dark by Henry Turner
Published by Clarion Books on April 7, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: ARC, Kindle Edition
Source: Review Copy
5 Stars

Billy Zeets has a story to tell.

About being a vandal and petty thief.

About missing boys and an elusive killer.

And about what happens if a boy who breaks all the rules is the only person who can piece together the truth.

Gripping and powerful, this masterful debut novel comes to vivid life through the unique voice of a hero as unlikely as he is unforgettable.

It has been way too long since I’ve loved a book as much as I love Henry Turner’s Ask the Dark. From the very first paragraph, I found myself hooked by the unique voice and view of the narrator Billy Zeets, and his intriguing way of telling his gripping and often times terrifying story. I still have goosebumps just thinking about it.

So what makes Billy Zeets the perfect narrator for this particular tale? He speaks with something that I can only describe as wise innocence. There are no such things as quotation marks, as if Billy is simply giving a retelling of what he encountered while hunting an elusive child killer in his town. (At the end of the book, we indeed are given the confirmation that Billy is retelling his story, recording it on a device that his friend gives him.) And this retelling makes readers feel closer to Billy than I have encountered with any other book. He was instantly my friend, and I instantly trusted him. Turner knew what he was doing when he created Billy Zeets. (As an added bonus, almost every time he curses, Billy follows up with one short sentence: “Scuze my language.” It’s super adorable.)

But even though Billy’s language is incredibly rough and at first hard to read, it becomes absolutely clear that he is not a dumb character, which is why his story, and how he figured out just who was taking and murdering boys, was so completely believable. What Billy lacks in book smarts, he makes up for in “street” smarts and a wise knowledge of his surroundings. And readers get sucked into that believability because it sounds so reliably true. 

I know I spent quite a while gushing about Billy, but understanding his character is the key to understanding Ask the Dark. It’s through Billy that we get to know the motivations of every other character in the novel, every space of his small town, and every hidden secret in between. And it’s Billy’s sole voice that makes the novel so scary. Turner writes through Billy in a way that makes you feel every ounce of this 15-year-old boy’s determination, motivation, understanding, and fear. Without this, there would have been no surprise to Ask the Dark. The suspense comes from the steps Billy takes in figuring out, in his own mind, what has happened to the boys and that inner monologue is the key to making all of it come together.

I don’t want to give anything away about the book, which makes it incredibly difficult to share all of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with Ask the Dark. But I am begging you to pick up a copy of this novel when it releases on April 7. I promise you won’t regret it!

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