Book Review,  Reviews

Hello Darkness – Anthony McGown

“I was sitting on the can when it all kicked off. Third cubicle from the wall. You could be pretty sure of finding me there at 11.30 on a Tuesday morning. That’s because 11.30 on a Tuesday morning meant double maths, and even the sour tang in the boys’ pissoire beat the heck out of quadratic equations, and the stale pleasure of speculating about whether Mr McHale would be wearing the brown safari jacket with the red food stains, or the red jacket with brown stains.”

Johnny Middleton’s school can only be described as a detention centre, you’d call it hell but even hell can’t compare. Run under the dictatorship of The Shank, and his ‘prefects’ who have permission to beat anyone misbehaving, the school day is full of surprises for many. The Shank only cares about the strict rules and the school pets, so when each group of pets is stricken off one by one, and Johnny appears to be involved every step of the way, he’s in trouble. Convinced its not his fault Johnny embarks on a quest to find the real killer, but becoming too involved is making Johnny forget about the important things in life, including the meds hes meant to take everyday and soon really weird things start happening. 

I have no idea how I feel about Hello Darkness so I am going to struggle putting it all into words. It was magical and crazy and bizarre all in one and I honestly think I loved it… but I’m not quite sure why.

The story is a spiral, watching as Johnny, our narrator, gets sucked into the crazy goings on more and more. You aren’t entirely sure whats real and whats not, and to be honest some of the things you want to be false, are more likely those that are real. It is madness every step of the way with the whole segregation of the school groups and the way things are run at the school and that, I believe, was real. The enforcement that the Shank put in place was as absolutely mind boggling as it appeared and the kids did act the way they acted. The other things though, the killings, you get the feeling Johnny wasn’t the culprit, or at least I did. The whole way through I expected to find who it was and when the end of the book came I was quite, well I don’t know… perplexed? It made me think more about the actions within the book even more than I ever would have done and I liked that.

The narrative voice is the thing that really makes this book stand out. I couldn’t get enough of the way Johnny told his story. There are reasons why he tells it in this way but as you don’t find those out until later on I felt like he really was telling me the story. The narration felt like a voice over from a movie, though it would be shot in a black and white classical style. I was reminded of Irvine Welsh and the way he writes his books, but obviously Hello Darkness wasn’t as dakr and messed up as any of Irvine Welsh’s books!

I honestly can’t stop thinking about this book and the way it ended. It blew me away and it was so intense that I want to go back and reread the entire thing. I know it sounds a bit crazy and has one of the most unreliable narrators I have read since The Wasp Factory, but it was amazing and has definitely made me a fan of Anthony McGowan’s work.

Hello Darkness was published on September 5th by Walker Children’s books. My copy was given to me at a Walker Books roadshow event. 

For more info or to buy the book please visit:
Amazon | Hive | Goodreads | Author Website

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