Tag Archives: reviews

Language is the issue in YA suspense Ask the Dark

Review of YA suspense Ask the Dark by Henry Turner The following is my review of Ask the Dark by Henry Turner, a new YA suspense to be released this coming week.

HEADS UP: Ask the Dark contains very graphic language, including frequent F-bombs.

When I began reading Ask the Dark, it immediately reminded me of a modern Huckleberry Finn—the uneducated, poorly-spoken trouble-maker kid who actually has more wisdom and a better heart than most others around him. I’ve read other reviews since then and seen that I’m not the only one drawn to make that comparison.

I loved so much about this book, particularly the main character, Billy. He was a very loveable protagonist. Yes, he had been a troublemaker in the past, but most of his infractions were minor. And since his mother passed away, he is determined to keep his promise to be a better person. I loved his determination to be better, as well as his intense love for his family. It was heartbreaking to see this ill-prepared youth take on responsibility that his father and older sister seemed incapable of.

I also enjoyed the creepy atmosphere and the plot, even though it wasn’t exactly full of surprises.

Two elements of this book almost ruined my enjoyment, however. First, the foul language was SO foul—I really didn’t expect it to be that extreme in a young adult book.

Even more than that, the style of writing was a huge stumbling block. I know the author is writing as though an uneducated kid is speaking the story. I know he was aiming for realism, but I think authors have to strike a balance between raw realism and coherence. The sudden, inexplicable switches from present to past tense, the curious spellings, the constant apostrophes inserted into the middles of words—as one example, there were so many abbreviations like “should’f” and “must’f.” Yes, I know what those are abbreviations for, but if I were typing up the transcript of someone who talks that way, I would have typed “should’ve” or “shoulda.” Those are normal abbreviations for that kind of speech and aren’t as jarring, or don’t call as much attention to themselves. Not only was I constantly being jerked out of the story to try to understand the writing, but I was much too aware of the writing. I caught myself constantly thinking of the author and the spelling and the tenses instead of getting lost in the character and story. I don’t think that’s what the author was aiming for.

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Harry Potter Re-Read: The Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I re-read the Harry Potter series for my Mythgard class, “Taking Harry Seriously,” reading The Half-Blood Prince is particularly bittersweet. (NOTE: I don’t think there are major spoilers in the following discussion, but if you’re extremely sensitive to being spoiled, play it safe and don’t read further.)

This one has so many “lasts.” Last time the kids get to be just kids, just Hogwarts students. Last time to worry about getting a girlfriend or passing an exam or winning a Quidditch match before the life, death, and soul struggles of The Deathly Hallows. One of my favorites in this vein: the kids learning to Apparate and struggling to get their Apparition licenses, similar to the way we Muggle kids had to pass our driving tests. Only we worried about getting into fender-benders during driver training, whereas they have to worry about getting splinched and leaving parts of their bodies behind! It’s this kind of detail of everyday life in the Wizarding World that makes the books such treasures, so much richer than the movies (which I do enjoy, also).

It’s also interesting to me how this book is connected to Book 2, Chamber of Secrets. So many things that were introduced in Chamber of Secrets (and possibly not mentioned since) become important again in Half-Blood Prince: several items that were casually seen in Borgin and Burkes when Harry ended up there by accident; Dobby the House Elf; Tom Riddle’s Diary; Aragog the giant spider–and probably a host of other things I’m not remembering at the moment. This is another reason the books are so powerful to me–Rowling obviously had such a detailed plan in her head from the beginning that this book series reads, to me, like one cohesive story. NOT a series of Harry Potter adventures she threw together after the success of the first book.

A co-worker recently asked that common question–if you had to choose one book to take with you if you were stranded on a desert island, which one would you take. Before I could speak (because she knows me well), she said, “You have to choose ONE Harry Potter book.” This is absurdly unfair to me, because that’s like telling me I could only take a few chapters of some other book!

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