Rayna Grace C.
Title: Ask the Dark
Author: Henry Turner
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pub Date: 04/07/15
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: This book did not pack as much of a thematic punch that I expected, although it still deserves some awards for being unafraid to be original. I wish there had been more connections made during the duration of the novel directly relating the vital differences in mentalities between petty criminals and murderers, since both the protagonist and the antagonist in the story would be considered suspicious people to meet while walking down an empty street. I realize that was probably the point of the novel, but I just don't believe it was driven in deep enough: Billy's redemption through fame and monetary gain felt slightly hollow and seemed too eager to end all Billy's problems instead of addressing the issues underlying Billy's struggle of being labeled as a bad/dangerous/unwanted person because he committed crimes. However, I will admit that the unconventional character choice itself was pretty fantastic, allowing Billy to be his own character, omitting some (not all; he still is a white male) of the traits found in the typical hero archetype. My favorite aspect of Billy was his honesty in the retelling, which seemed to very obviously contrast with his petty criminal dealings. Overall, I admired the book's willingness to fight the typical plot devices and character molds found in YA lit. The change in pace from day-to-day YA literature was bold, but I wish that the book had really worked the thematic overtones during all the drama and mystery at the end instead of focusing on Billy's sudden wealth.
Memorable or Forgettable: What made this book memorable was what it didn't do. Although sometimes I felt the book was missing thematic depth, it did fight most of the typical YA book norms. I admired that no character was without flaw or emotion, despite their brief descriptions. I admired that no female characters were uselessly inserted into the novel as plot devices so they could use their feminine wiles to teach the main character compassion or obedience, or to create any love triangles constructed to somehow thicken the plot where the editor believed the novel fell flat (believe me, this doesn't work). I admired that the book never glorified or sensationalized the horrific crimes addressed, or objectified the victims of those crimes into a list of injuries and traumas instead of a person. Keeping all of those things absent in more YA crime books/YA books/all books would make this world a much better place. This book takes us one more step into the future.
Cover: I fully respect the designer who created this cover. The amber glowing shack sitting front and center, along with the tree branches roughly crisscrossing along the rest of the cover, and the translucent title letters creates the exact mood for this novel: dark, down to earth, ominous and hopeful all at once, with the transparency of a small town too shocked with the murder of one of their children to notice the details like a boy always immersed in crime himself.
Age Range: 12 through 15
Quality: 5Q - Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P - Broad general teen appeal
tags: mystery / thriller / ya lit