May 24, 11
Read from May 16 to 24, 2011
The phrase “what has this world come to” is a commonly used expression amongst adults, such adults of course referring to internet porn, rape in friendly neighborhoods and young ladies with their shorts as tiny as a pair of cotton panties. HELLO, DARKNESS (absolutely a fitting title!) is not for old ladies who sit with their fanny packs and cups of tea watching the 6 o’clock news every night – if they truly believe in the popular phrase and are truly concerned, this novel will be scarier for them than anything by Stephen King.
Paris Gibson – no, it’s not a stage name – has been working as a night radio host for years now. Trying to escape from heartbreak, and a man who brings it all back, she flees to Austin (place song here) and, as the back cover states, “comes alive only at night.” She gives on-air advice, plays the cheesiest of romance songs, and becomes, typically, an overnight success and lovable host. Just when Paris is beginning to feel at ease with her pretty much unconventional life, she gets a phone call from one of her regular listeners, Valentino, a phone call Paris doesn’t put on-air but pays close attention to nonetheless. Apparently a few nights back, Paris had given advice to Valentino’s girlfriend on-air, telling her to dump his ass. He threatens that retribution will be paid towards her and his girlfriend, telling Paris that she only has three days before the girl is raped until death and Paris is the next in line.
Naturally, Paris calls the cops and from there the book forms upon a police investigation, the point of view switching from Paris to Dean Malloy, a crime psychologist from Paris’ past, Valentino and numerous other characters. These switching vantage points make the writing sometimes hard to follow but also useful in finding out whodunit. HELLO, DARKNESS isn’t like any other mystery/crime/police-investigation novel I’ve ever read – we get to zero in on a man who doesn’t know he’s doing anything wrong, a criminal scarier than anything you’ll ever get.
Sexual abuse is a daunting topic to breech in books. It must be done well – a great example of rape tastefully delivered in writing, complete with the aftermath and shock would be Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong – and thoroughly analyzed. Brown breaks down the mind of a sexual creature and eventually shows us that sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate between molesting and only pleasure. What’s so frightening about this novel is that rape can be easily hidden behind a thin veil of normalcy, a man with a too-dirty mind hiding his addiction to sex behind the life of the “average American.”
I didn’t like reading this in the darkness, that’s for sure. When I turned out my lights at night and flipped on my side, just having put the book down, I couldn’t help but feel someone was watching over my back. Maybe it’s because I’m a teen and this novel isn’t focused towards me and my age group – although it should be, considering how serious the topic of projecting your sexuality on the internet is and how many teens do it, including friends of friends that I know – but I was totally scared of the crime Brown put into place. Even with the romance that Brown had added in here and there couldn’t soften the blow this novel impacting on me, even with the true character personalities and inspections of self and children.
HELLO, DARKNESS, despite it being a great read, was just missing something for me. After putting it down for a few hours, when I opened it up, I already felt bored. Although it was quick and easy to bring me back into the pacing and plot of things, I still couldn’t help but feel everything dragged a little bit, although the timing and pacing was necessary for this idea to work out. The little thing going on between Paris and Dean was hot and romantic, sure, but I sometimes felt the two were a little too dramatic with their cheesy lines and instant flashbacks. (The flashbacks being worth it, though, because they certainly added depth to the characters.)
I really, really liked HELLO, DARKNESS. I picked it up looking for not exactly a crime novel or mystery but a romance – luckily I got the entire triad, plus a good dose of the “scared-me-silly” effect that makes any book worthwhile overall.
HELLO, DARKNESS by Sandra Brown
Audience: 16+ (sexual contact, rape, questionable language and content, alcohol and drug use)
Recommend?: If you’re one of my teen readers skimming this, I very honestly suggest this to be read in a couple of years. If you’ve got your drivers license, can drink, or even have a fake ID, then definitely grab this one as soon as you can.