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.