This was an interesting little read, to say the least! I was pleasantly surprised about how engrossed I was in it and the variety of factors that made this novel work, even if it wasn’t quite perfect.
I Hope You’re Listening follows Delia “Dee” Skinner, a teenager who is constantly haunted by the violent abduction of her best friend, Sibby, when they were children. Not only does she harbor guilt about not being able to help Sibby when she was taken, but she feels isolated from the world who pities her for being “the girl who was not taken.” So much so that she has established her own secret persona: The Seeker, host of an insane popular True Crime podcast. All is well until another child from Dee’s neighborhood disappears.
This book is an easy one-time-sit-down-and-shut-up read. Though it’s twisty and dark, it’s not deep enough to be called convoluted nor dark enough to be truly unsettling.
Let’s talk about the fabulous:
How it was structured! I adored how the chapters were often broken up by delving into the crime Dee was working on through her podcast. Having parallel cases running through the story really captured my attention and gave us more than just the official plotline to chew on. It actually felt like there were other characters speaking to me through the podcast tape recordings. It also gave a sense of a broader world than just the tiny town where Dee lives. And the flashbacks to when Sibby as abducted– I loved that. I wish there were more of those spread out in brief snippets of The After.
The entire plot! I might be crazy, but I have always wanted a book from the point of view of someone who witnessed a kidnapping and was left behind. There is so much psychological meatiness to delve into and Tom Ryan did a bang up job attempting to breach that bag of trauma. Dee is scarred. Scarred and scared and full of survivor’s guilt that literally leads her to create a new identity with the hope that she could help other people find closure, the way she was never given it. I loved listening to her thoughts and reasonings, even if I didn’t always agree with them.
Burke laid down the law and made it clear that Sibby’s abductions left the entire town reeling. And it is with the town every day since then. So often we focus only on the reaction of one person for a violent crime. An this book does that as well, but the secondary characters are there to make sure that we, the audience, understand that Dee is not the only one hurting.
What I didn’t love:
Sarah and Dee. I wanted so much to root for them, but we were given so little of Sarah’s characterization aside from “cool chick, cool car, ride or die” that I felt like she was just… there. No motivations or real personality. I almost think the story would have worked better if Sarah was an established girlfriend and Dee was trying to hide her podcast life from even her. Maybe then I’d understand the “I love yous” despite only having like 3 good scenes together.
The believability aspect went a little wonky about midway through. I can ignore the fact that she’s a sixteen year old with school and homework and secretly running an intricate true crime podcast and her best friend is a stoner-hacker. I can ignore her parents not having any clue about any of it. But the idea that Sarah, a scared 18 year old would easily let Dee get in a car with a man they think may have kidnapped another girl, and stay in a seedy motel all night doesn’t sit right. And Dee’s constant sudden realizations that lead to the solving of both cases back to back? Lay out some groundwork for the rest of us! It came out of nowhere.
But as nitpicky as I am, I really did enjoy this novel! I think it is an excellent start for branching into the YA Thriller game for Tom Ryan! The book read like a high stakes episode of Veronica Mars and I was here for it!
**Thank you to NetGalley for proving me and advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review