Barking Madness – Ryan Hill

In Reviews by Nya5 Comments


“My life is crumbling away before my eyes while I do nothing to prevent it. I have visited too many funerals, for too many friends who haunt my dreams. Everybody dies eventually, right? No, everybody dies young when they befriend me. Was I born to die young? I don’t thnk so. I’m the only one here with the nerve to stay alive. I can’t be left alone. Not with that hollow man, the one who hides his face. That’s what he wants, me to be alone, because once I’m alone he’s going to kill me!”

Seventeen-year-old Rosetta Harper is plagued by nightmares of a masked man. With her father’s new career move, her family has just relocated from Florida to the small New England town of Ashwood. A quiet town and close-knit community where you know your neighbors, and trouble is a word unspoken. But soon after her arrival, her world and the worlds of her classmates come crashing down.

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. With her as a new classmate, Michael finally gets the excitement he was looking for, but it may be at too high a cost.

I was offered a free copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

I will start by saying that, despite the book being quite long (more than I think it should, considering the plot, but more on that later), it was still enjoyable and easy to read.
There are things I loved, and other things I didn’t like as much.

General Considerations:

Demographics and genre: This book is YA and if considering the characters’ age range and overall tone, suitable for young audiences. On the other hand, teenagers (specially female, I’d say) might struggle to relate to the protagonists. This is not only because the main characters are not very likeable and even, controversial. You see, Michael is your average Joe, but Rose is not your plain Jane. Rose is the typical ‘mean girl’ of any teenage movie; however, in this story, she pretty much shines. In fact, there are no plain Janes worth mentioning; the lesson we take from this story is that all it matters are the ‘hot girls’. I notice that most YA reviews focus mainly on characters: You have controversial characters – fine; you have a female protagonist that many won’t be able to relate to – fine; this female protagonist can pretty much have everything she wants – fine; you make this female protagonist suffer a bit – we are loving it; but then we are supposed to be rooting for her, at some point, but we cannot, because Rose is terribly selfish and never learns her lesson. Now, of course, you don’t need to please everyone, but you should try to please your target audience as much as possible, and this was, perhaps, a risky move.
Then, for the genre, I have to admit that when I saw the cover, I was expecting something completely different. The cover is dark, mysterious and suggests horror. But, for me, the book is more of a psychological thriller with probably a bit too much of romance in the mix. Nothing wrong with this, but then again, risky move.

The Plot:

I like the concept of the classic werewolf tale turned into something more. However, I was disappointed that the story lost a bit of its main focus.
Let’s start with the beginning. I thought it was a bit tricky for many reasons. There is a heavy introduction that suddenly gives place to a very laid back environment focused on teenage dialogue and teenage problems. While I see this as ‘the calm before the storm’, which is a perfectly valid technique, I also think that the amount of chapters dedicated to these teenagers’ daily routine was excessive and unnecessary. There was just too much dialogue that didn’t move the story forward. It’s interesting to know that these teenagers also have problems of their own to deal with, but I’d say this could be cut to half and allow the reader to focus more on the whole werewolf concept instead. I thought that the dream world and the whole mystery surrounding Rose’s family was a bit distracting, considering the initial concept. I’d even say it was a bit too much. In fact, at some points, it feels more like a comic relief than anything else. Instead of having only one focus – the werewolf transformation – we now have two main ‘creepy’ issues to focus on, and it’s not clear during the story if they are even connected. Of course, the reader wants answers, and this is what makes anyone read a book in first place: You place questions, and we keep reading, waiting for the answers. What I felt, however, in the end, was not an answer to the question I had, but more like a strange kind of enlightenment. There is this quote by Orson Scott Card, which might explain it better: “Usually the only information that you withhold is this: what is going to happen next. The climax of a story isn’t created by suddenly discovering what’s going on. The climax of the story is created by suddenly resolving issues that have been causing the audience a great deal of tension throughout the story. There’s no tension without information.”

The Characters:

The characters are not likeable, at first. And even with the narrative progress, it is incredibly difficult to sympathize with them. They do, however, become more real, and the author did a good job at that. Because this is how humanity is: Flawed.
As I have mentioned previously, I doubt the female teenage audience will relate much to Rose. I find interesting that Rose’s story is, somehow, a journey of redemption. But, perhaps too far-fetched of a concept for a narrative that is so teenage-focused. Might be easier to relate to Michael, even with his biggest flaw being his selfishness.

The POV – Ok, I have to admit I like First Person narrative when it’s well done. There were good things about the alternating point of view, such as: we got to experience fast-paced action and each character’s adrenaline, and the teenage tone was done accurately – probably because the author was a teenager himself when he wrote this book. Also, this allowed for humorous, rather hilarious, remarks at some points.
On the other hand, I thought Rose and Michael had both a very similar ‘voice’, nothing really differentiates their speech. Also, there is a chapter in specific in which Michael seems to be omniscient as he talks about the other characters. I understand this might be an issue with the wording, but it does give that impression. Quoting, for example: “Noah was crushed”.

Strongest points:

The action scenes were well done and there were quite a few suspenseful bits that captured my attention, making me want to keep reading. Unfortunately, many of the strongest points were lost, considering the length of the book and the amount of purposeless dialogue.

Overall, this was a good read, but it could be so much more if the main focus has been prioritised. This could have many different options for a potential main focus: Teenage problems and issues to deal with; Classic werewolf tale; Psychological thriller; even maybe flawed romance. However, all of these have been thrown into the mix and I felt a bit of each element was lost in the process. The story could be so much shorter too – even each chapter is quite long, which is a big problem for exhausted readers who might want to read for a few minutes only before bed. I’ve come across a few typos too, might be worth a second revision.

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  1. napoleonsplit

    I just received this book as well, and curious to compare my notes to yours. Great review, definitely looking forward to reading the book!

    1. Author

      That’s great 🙂 I hope you enjoy it and
      curious about your thoughts as well. Thank you so much for visiting

  2. marytkincaid

    Thank you. I’m at the let’s try it…then mmmm, why doesn’t it work like they said it would, then okay…tea…maybe a nap.

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