“Ask the Dark will keep you up all night, and its flawed, real hero will haunt your day. I wish I’d written it.” —Michael Grant, New York Times best-selling author of Gone and BZRK
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. “Ask the Dark is absolutely remarkable. Readers will line up for this one.”—Michael Cart, past president of YALSA and ALAN
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.65(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Originally from Baltimore, the award-winning independent filmmaker and journalist Henry Turner now lives in Southern California. Ask the Dark is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
PART ONE Chapter One I feel better now. I can move my arm some, and walk around a bit. Ache in my belly’s still there, but the doctor says it’ll go too. Says there’s almost nothing that can hurt a fifteen-year-old boy forever, and I’ll grow out of that pain like I grow out of a pair of old shoes. Loads of people have asked me ’bout what happened. Police and doctors and just about everybody in the neighborhood. I never had so many visitors. Tell the truth, I’m tired of getting asked. I feel like just getting on with what’s happening now, and not thinking of what’s gone by. I want to answer everybody all at once and get it all the hell over with. But there’s one big thing—where to begin. Because you don’t know me. Maybe you seen me on the streets walking around, or riding Old Man Pedersen’s bike if you was ever up at night. I mean that girls’ bike with the tassels on it. Or maybe you just seen me hanging round Shatze’s Pharmacy. But really knowing me, few people do. Sam Tate does. He’s a boy my age, and he said something true. He come up here to my room the other day and we talked, not just ’bout what happened, but ’bout other things too, things we did together before all this big mess. He was sitting near my bed, right there on the windowsill, looking out the window at the trees. Then he looked at me and said, The real thing is, you’d never have done it, never even found out about it, if you hadn’t done all the things people hated you for. It turns out those were the right things to do, Billy. Isn’t that funny? All that stealing and never going to school. It’s what made it so you were outside a lot, seeing things nobody else saw. Hidden and secret things. He was dead-on right with what he said. I laughed. I saved three boys, so they tell me. Got beat and shot doin’ it. And Sam says I’d never of done it, ’cept I was always stealing and busting things, and creeping around people’s yards at night. That is funny. But I s’pose it’s true. I don’t ride that girls’ bike no more. Got a new one. There it is, leaning against the wall over there, bright and shiny. Got twenty-one gears, so I’m told. I’ll have to figure that out. How to use’m. Man that brought it was Jimmy Brest’s father, the Colonel, USMC. He wheeled it in, laughing and smiling. My daddy was with him a minute, then left and it was just the Colonel and me. And you know what he did? He come over to the bed and took my hand, and he called me the bravest boy he’d ever known, for what I done to save his son. He said I was a hero, and he was quiet a minute, and was almost gonna cry. But that’s like everybody. It seems no matter who gets wind of what I done, from my sister or Sam Tate or one of them news shows on TV, they all start bawling their heads off. So I figure I best tell it myself and get things straight. ’Cause I don’t want to make nobody cry. ’Specially colonels, USMC. The fact is, I ain’t no hero, and I aim to prove it. What I done, if I done anything, was get my daddy a fruit stand. See, my daddy was feeling bad and needed money and couldn’t do for hisself, so I done it. And to tell this right you gotta know about that, and other things too, like about us losing the house and what my sister done to get herself to be having a baby. You gotta know all that, ’cause if you do, everything else I say will make sense. Sort’f add up, know what I mean? I ain’t hardly left my bed in four weeks, just hanging around my room. I couldn’t stand lookin’ out the window no more and seeing the days and nights come and go, I was goin’ crazy. So I got one of them video games. Hand-held. Sam Tate brought it. What you do with it is move this little monkey through a maze and traps. Monkey’s gotta jump and roll and bounce, and if he don’t make it he falls through a gap and you gotta start over. You use these little buttons to make him jump. Thing makes beeping noises. Plays a little tune if you do it right. Can you imagine being that little monkey? Jumping and rolling all day? I kept thinking I was him, and I got so bothered by it, what with whipping my fingers all over it and my eyes jiggling, that I threw the damn thing out the window and heard it bust on the ground. So now I’m in trouble again ’cause I got no idea what I’m gonna tell Sam Tate. Since I busted that monkey game I got me a little TV, my daddy brung it up here to me. I started watching that all the time, and just this morning I saw something that explains pretty good why I decided to go ’head and tell all this. There was this talk show on, one with the big fat lady who always got guests on with problems like Welfare and drinking and drugs and whatnot, usually yelling and screaming and hitting each other right there on the show till cops come out and arrest’m, which I can’t say is real or not, or if they just getting paid money to say all them things. But this morning she had on a lady who went through cancer and divorce and all sorts of troubles, only to get rich decoratin’ folks’ houses, famous folks, after she was on her feet again. Anyway, this lady said that even on her darkest day, she always had her dream that kept her going when nothing else did. Now that’s just like me. Just like me’n the fruit stand. ’Cause when all this was going on and I was trying to make all that money to save the house, I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t say to myself, I gotta get that fruit stand! Gotta get my daddy that damn fruit stand. Scuze my language. After the lady told ’bout her dream, she said one more thing. I liked it. She said, If I did it, you can too! That’s just how I feel. And that’s why I ain’t no hero. If I did it, you can too. ’Cause I ain’t better’n nobody. So here goes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ask the Dark is a powerful story, with a great pace, well-imagined characters, and fresh plot-line. I was unable to put this one down. The story is both sad and triumphant. Young Billy is a wonderful, imperfect, and totally human narrator. He comes from the wrong side of a small town, in a family beset by layers of hardship and tragedy. He's no angel, but he's far from being a devil. He's out to save his family home and discovers terrible horrors and secrets in his town. Many times he reminded me of Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) - or at least that he'd probably be friends with her. And actually, the novel often had me thinking of To Kill a Mockingbird: small towns, deception of appearances, prejudice, poverty, and the struggles of everyday people. (Many thanks to NetGalley and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!)
Ask the Dark by Henry Turner Although the character is reminiscent of Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the rye the book has a central resonance that makes it compelling. The story revolves around a bad southern boy, who does not know propriety and behavior, is the central figure in figuring out a horrific crime. The harsh language rough nature of the central character distracts from the horrific nature of the crime he solves. His inability to focus on what is happening around him delays the solution to the problem until the end of the story. As a reader you spend time questioning the main characters flaws, like Holden rather than the guts of the mystery, giving it more of a suspenseful nature. Although for the majority of the story I had a hard time understanding his character, his honorific pursuit of the criminal and his heroic efforts to save other children from the fate they are entrapped make you understand that even with his flaws his story has a reason, a beginning a middle and an end, unlike his classic counterpart.
Billy wants to keep his family together, or what is left of his family. His mother is no longer with them, his older sister dresses provocative and keeps bad company which worries Billy and Billy has the reputation for being the accused for many of the neighborhoods problems, Billy realizes he needs to step up before it’s too late. Their family is about to lose their home and with his dad not able to work, Billy takes it upon himself to find the money to save it. It’s definitely a large sum of money for a 14 year-old boy to make in such a short time but Billy is determined to give it all he has. Starting out with odd jobs around the neighborhood, these meager sums don’t add up quickly but when there’s a reward for boys who have gone missing, Billy is determined that money is going to wind up in his pocket. Thinking that he can solve this crime using his knowledge of the neighborhood and his connections, Billy tries to piece together the mystery the police are unable to solve. Using clues, only Billy was able to stumble upon, this dark and mysterious novel had me wondering if his time and effort was really all worth it. He’s only a teen but his determination and his inquisitive mind led him in directions and pushed him forward, giving it everything he had, as he knew his life and his family’s life was also on the line. What I really enjoyed about this novel was the character of Billy. His past haunted him, he knew that some people didn’t care for him and that this could work to his advantage as he tried to find out what was happening to the missing boys. He didn’t have to follow no protocol; he followed what he thought needed to be done and sometimes even second guessed himself as this mystery started to unravel. Billy took it upon himself to be the man-of-the-house when his father gave up, his talks with his father and his speeches with his sister; it showed a deep love for his family and what type a person he really was vs. what the community thought of him.
I received this book via NetGalley to give an honest review. I thought the book was okay. I liked how this young boy tried to take care of his family and in the process solve the crime of missing boys. This story is told through Billy and everything is told through his eyes and what is going on in the town. How he acts, how people portray him. Billy is a young boy who comes from the "wrong" side of the tracks so to speak everyone in town knows who he is because he has found himself in trouble, or doing things to people's property. Now when one boy goes missing and the town goes under curfew Billy finds it exicting to break it. While he does this he finds the a body. This sets off a chain of events. Billy's father is going to lose the house and Billy attempts to help find a way to save his home. He walks through town asking people if he can mow yards, clean gutters pretty much whatever he can do to get money the "good" way. Now during all this another boy goes missing and slowly but surly Billy believe he knows who is doing it, but he doesn't want to say anything in fear of getting in trouble. As the story progresses Billy finds himself in trouble with this person and he ends up a hero. Because of his actions good things are going to come his way. If you like to read about serial killers, but without all the blood and gore, a hero who helps save the day. I say get this story. Now it take some getting use to with the dialect that was used. I didn't know if Billy was a southerner, or if this story was told in a different year. There was also no quotation marks when people talked. So that at times through me off as to who was saying what.
Told in the innocent voice of a young teen, a tale of loss, poverty, accidental heroics, and the truth of his feelings, the voice and heart of Billy Zeets come to life in through the eyes and heart of the main character. Ask the Ark by Henry Turner is as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking as Billy recounts his life and events since the day he made a deathbed promise to his dying mother. Once a troublemaker, Billy has always been looked down upon by his peers as well as many adults who know of his family’s poverty, his father’s issues and the boy Billy used to be. What these people all failed to see was the loyalty and love held within this teen’s soul. Billy tends to forgive most transgressions, finding an excuse for what has happened. But the pivotal day in his life came the day he found the body of a young boy who had gone missing and never told anyone what he saw. Between the threat of losing their home and his father’s deep depression, Billy takes on the responsibility to save both their home and his family from complete emotional destruction. Does this mean he must go back to his wilder days and break the vow he took for his mother? More boys go missing and Billy may have hit on a lead that he follows up on, himself, because he has no faith that the adults in his small town would even listen to him, not even those in authority, the ones he should be able to go to. Will Billy’s personal investigations land him in more trouble than he can handle? Will he go above and beyond to bring the monster behind these crimes down or are his attempts going to prove once again, that Billy will never amount to anything? Henry Turner has captured the heart and soul of a humble young teen through his words. The dialogue is down home quaint, as Billy comes across as a boy who has never really been given the chance to try to soar with the eagles of youth. This trip through Billy’s life and the town he lives in will feel real, will capture your imagination and your protective side as you root for Billy to finally find acceptance and acknowledgement of the fine young man is his becoming. His blushing humility and sense of honor often get him in trouble, all because he is trying to do the right thing, something he now finds to be second nature. A fascinating and sweet read, perfect for YA on up, I think Henry Turner could squeeze tears from a rock, with Ask the Dark. No matter what genre you read, this is one to step outside of your box with.