Monday, February 5, 2018

Book Review: 'Barking Madness' by Ryan Hill

Massachusetts new author Ryan Hill is now a student at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. According to Ryan ‘I wrote BARKING MADNESS as a senior in high school and based the characters loosely on people that I knew in school. I feel that some readers have had a hard time believing that teens can be so self-absorbed..and mean. But, they can!’ This first novel is directed toward to Yong Adult audience though as a psychological thriller/ghost story it likely will appeal to all readers who are fascinated by the plethora of the many movies and television that deal with the dark world.

Ryan seems to have an ease with words: his writing style is fluid, propulsive, and well aimed at the core and resolution of the story – a tale that mixes teenage life views with treks into the netherworld. In Ryan’s own summary he phrases, ’17 year old Rosetta Harper and her family have just moved from Florida to a small, rural New England town. Her beauty and manipulative ways have quickly made her the center of attention and part of the ‘it’ group. But all is not as it seems. She inadvertently becomes the target of a twisted series of events involving supernatural creatures, scary visions and horrific nightmares that test her loyalties to her friends and family. Michael hates his family and feels alone and unloved. He only finds comfort when he’s with his friends, but even they get on his nerves. Everything about Ashwood and his life bores him, until Rosetta Harper moves into town. The story alternates POV between Rosetta and Michael. Shortly after moving into Ashwood, Rose gets the attention of Tommy, a ‘popular’ boy. After going to a party and heading home through the woods, the pair comes face to face with a massive wolf. They are attacked leaving Rose severely injured and Tommy dead. This physical attack results in Rose believing she is afflicted with something monstrous. Rose soon finds herself living in a world of ghosts and monsters. Hearing screams from the road, Michael runs through the woods to find the source. What he finds will forever change his life. Rosetta Harper, the new girl who he has admired from afar is on the ground before him fighting for her life. Her rescue will be the start of a slow-building, back and forth friendship that develops into a loving relationship. At first, Rose wants nothing to do with Michael. He isn't popular, a jock, or outgoing at all. He is completely out of her social circle, but as the story develops and Rose seeks to discover the truth about her past and her future, so does their connection.’

Solid character development, a plot so full of surprises that it keeps us guessing, and fine adventure into the strange aspects of dark fantasy – all make for an impressive debut novel. The book is a bit long in the tooth and likely Ryan’s next novel will be tighter and better edited, but for a first outing this is impressive work. Grady Harp, July 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.