This book is about to turn YA right on its ear.
Ask the Dark is Billy Zeets’ story. Literally. What you read is what he is telling into a handheld digital recorder. It’s the story of some missing neighborhood boys, and how he became an unlikely hero. It’s a phenomenal f*&^%$# debut.
“‘Scuze my language.”
I loved Billy. He reminded me a bit of this guy . . .
And Holy guacamole did this book push some boundaries when it comes to the traditional definition of “YA.” Now, if this were being marketed as a book for adults, I would be a harsher critic, but it’s not, so I’m not. In a kid’s book it’s completely understandable for a kid from the wrong side of the tracks to ignore all common sense and put himself in harm’s way in order to potentially solve a crime. (It’s been my experience that people aren’t as accepting of these types of storylines in “grown up” stories.) There’s also no use of quotes to distinguish conversion which will grate on some, but again I think most kids won’t even notice or if they do notice it I don’t think they would have as much of a problem with it. Remember, this isn’t supposed to be a written story – it reads like you’re listening to a recording (a tactic that I found worked very well).
Ask the Dark is a book that would hold a kid’s attention. It has mystery, action, violence, foul language, etc. Unfortunately, these are also the things that will keep parents from being accepting of this book, so it’s a double-edged sword.
I would have given this one 4 Stars, but I had a couple of issues. First, this book read like a “blast from the past” – the MC was a kid who spent his days wandering the town, looking for odd jobs, riding around with the junk man, etc. No offense to modern-day kids, but from my experience not many of you are like this. Then every once in a while there would be a reference to a cell phone or something that made me realize this was supposed to take place in the present. Second, the dialect is so well written. I can’t remember the last time I read such great “drawl.” However, as a mom I know reading accents is something that doesn’t come easily to kids and can slow down the pace/lessen the enjoyment for a non-adult.
All in all, though? Remarkable. We’ll call this one “Kelly Tested and Oprah Approved.”
Okay, not really. Don’t sue me, Oprah.
ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.